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Open letter to health secretary highlights cancer care challenges

Cancer professional organisations have written an open letter to the UK health secretary Steve Barclay highlighting capacity challenges in oncology departments that are preventing the safe, effective and timely delivery of cancer care.

Co-signed by the British Oncology Pharmacy Association, Royal College of Radiologists, Association of Cancer Physicians and the Oncology Nursing Society, the letter sets out the shortfalls in oncology care in the UK as a result of insufficient Government support.

Highlighting that demand for cancer treatment is increasing by 6-8% every year, the letter states that ‘a lack of planning for increased workload is preventing the delivery of timely cancer treatment’. While innovative treatments are being funded and made available on the NHS, ‘a lack of equivalent investment or support for the oncology workforce means departments are failing to keep pace’.

As a result, ‘patients may be denied access to new and innovative medicines’, and to meet demand oncology teams are having to ‘create capacity in ways which compromise patient safety and quality of care’, the letter adds.

The organisations are calling on Mr Barclay to meet with them to discuss their ‘ambitious yet achievable recommendations’ for how the Government, NHS and healthcare professionals can work together to ‘ensure this critical situation can be improved’.

The recommendations range from ‘quick wins such as horizon scanning or capacity planning tools to support workforce planning, to longer-term measures such as the desperately needed action to boost
the oncology workforce’, the letter explains.

It is hoped that Government talks and action will ensure patients receive an optimum level of care and that NHS and Government cancer targets can be met.