NHS cancer services in England need funding boosts to meet the “looming demands” of an ageing population, a new report has found.
Services are under mounting pressure due to growing demand, efficiency savings and the government’s health service reforms, according to the new Cancer Research UK-commissioned report.
The charity’s chief executive Harpal Kumar said the NHS needed “increased investment, planning and leadership now” to tackle growing demand for cancer treatment driven by an aging population.
The report, written by experts at the University of Birmingham and research company ICF GHK Consulting, acknowledges the NHS in England is under “considerable pressure” because of tight purse strings and the impact of the NHS reforms, which came into force in April last year.
The authors said real-term spending on cancer peaked in 2009-10 at £5.9 billion, with spend in 2012-13 reducing to £5.7 billion.
They called for the government to increase investment in cancer services - particularly in diagnostic services where demand was starting to “outstrip the resources available”.
They also identified “widespread concern” that capacity was not keeping up with current demands.
Mr Kumar said: “In many ways, NHS cancer services have held up remarkably well. 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.”
Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said: “As Cancer Research UK says, the NHS is successfully seeing 50 per cent more patients than four years ago and survival rates have never been higher. Almost nine out of 10 patients say their care is excellent or very good.
“But CRUK is right to highlight the need for more integrated commissioning between specialist and local services.”
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “In 2010, we inherited cancer survival rates that were amongst the worst in Europe - but we are making progress.
“This government has prioritised cancer, investing three-quarters of a billion pounds over four years to improve early diagnosis and treatment, and just last month announced an extra £160 million for the Cancer Drugs Fund and £6 million towards a revolutionary new type of radiotherapy.
“Demand is growing - but survival rates are improving just as we treat record numbers of NHS patients for cancer.”