NHS cancer services under threat, leading charity warns

8 September 2014

NHS cancer services under threat, leading charity warns

NHS cancer services are near to collapse due to inability to deal with increased demand and funding cuts, a leading charity has warned. It insists that urgent investment is needed otherwise patient survival rates will suffer.

Cancer Research UK has warned that NHS cancer services will soon collapse under increased demands and due to funding cuts-that is unless urgent investment is injected into the NHS as a matter of urgency.

The report commissioned by the charity discovered that there was a distinct lack of leadership within NHS cancer services, resulting in spiralling of demand, fragmentation of services across different organisations and budgets which were incapable of dealing with the sheer volume of demand.

"Quality of care is deteriorating"

The troubling news comes after it emerged that key waiting times in cancer have been missed for the first time ever. The target set as a national benchmark for patients to start treatment is within 62 days of their GP referring them to cancer specialists. With 85% of patients starting treatment within this 62 period, some hospitals in the last quarter show that just six in 10 patients were seen within that time.

The treatment of cancer after initial diagnosis is vital and all elements of a care plan can help patients who have been recently diagnosed with cancer. If treatment options are not pursued carefully this can sometimes result in cancer spreading and in further-sometimes fatal-consequences. When this happens there can be grounds for a potential medical negligence claim.

Although survival rates have been alleged to have been proving the finding reveals the stress that cancer service resources are under mirroring the fact that Britain is far behind the best performing countries in Europe in dealing with patients promptly under cancer service referral treatment.

The charity commissioned Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham to with one respondent saying, amongst the numerous interviews and surveys, that:

“We need more funding. Instead of progressing/developing our cancer services which are already significantly underfunded, our services are actually being cut. It is becoming impossible to deliver all the new cancer targets and quality of care is deteriorating.”

'Enough is Enough'

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “In many ways, NHS cancer services have held up remarkably well. They have coped. Staff have bravely dug-in and done their best in the face of overwhelming change, increased demand, squeezed budgets and fragmented leadership. But that cannot continue indefinitely.

“In their own words the people that have propped up these NHS services tell us in this report that ‘enough is enough’. They can’t go on like this with no help or support coming over the horizon. And they certainly can’t improve services so that our cancer outcomes are up there with the best in the world.

“More people are surviving cancer than ever before – survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years because research is delivering better diagnosis and treatments. But the number of cases is also going up as the UK population ages.

"This combination means we’ll be diagnosing more people, treating more people and helping more people recover from cancer in coming decades. The NHS will need to be fit to meet that purpose and that needs increased investment, planning and leadership now.”

With increased demand Mistreatment.com has spoken to members of the public who have seen delays in their treatment and where this has sometimes only led to cancer spreading and resulting in further complications when prompt diagnosis and treatment may have made a significant difference and outcome. In those cases the specialist cancer misdiagnosis teams at Mistreatment.com have able to help clients with medical mistreatment and medical negligence claims and complaints.

Chemotherapy services in some areas are seeing almost 40 per cent more patients with the same space and number of nurses and in others cancer patients are now being treated on non-cancer wards making it less efficient for staff and raising concerns that quality of care is suffering.

Medical Negligence and medical mistreatment may rise in line with slipping targets

One doctor said: “We need to have more capacity as we are seeing more patients and surgery and treatments are becoming more complex, yet we are trying to fit more patients into the already squeezed resources that we have."

The report said: "It seems clear that demand is starting to outstrip the resources available, as can be seen perhaps from the drop in performance against the 62-day waiting time target.

"It is unlikely that more efficiency gains can be achieved without them having a detrimental impact on staff, services and hence, patients.

"Staff are under increasing pressure to meet patient demand, and this is likely to have a longer-term effect on morale, motivation and well-being. There is also a lack of physical capacity, such as clinical space, in the system to accommodate more activity, and specific concerns regarding diagnostic capacity."

What you can do

Have you or a loved one wanted to raise a complaint with the NHS regarding medical mistreatment that has been experienced? Our specialist teams can provide FREE advice about what your options are, whether you want to make a medical negligence claim or medical mistreatment complaint or simply to better understand what your patient rights. You can contact us here today for  a no-obligation and completely free conversation to discuss what happened to you.