Published: 13/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5905 Page 6

A survey of cancer networks by charity CancerBACUP has exposed shortages of radiographers and radiotherapists affecting every single respondent, HSJ can reveal.

A report published today on the obstacles to meeting the December 2005 target that all urgent cancer patients should receive treatment within two months of referral, shows that 45 per cent of networks thought workforce shortages were the main barrier.

Living With Cancer: waiting for treatment says: 'The worst staff shortages are in radiotherapy, radiography and pathology, causing bottlenecks at the vital diagnostic stage.' The report is based on a response rate of 60 per cent.

The second-biggest hurdle was poor data, according to 40 per cent of networks.

While only 15 per cent of respondents highlighted a lack of money as the main cause for concern, the report considers the implications ofthe national cancer plan's funding ending last month: 'Much will depend upon the ability of networks to modernise their services without incurring extra costs.'

HSJ can also reveal that the allparliamentary group on cancer will begin an inquiry next month into 'the implications for cancer services of the government's policy of devolved decision-making in the NHS'. Those due to give oral evidence include national cancer director Professor Mike Richards, public health minister Melanie Johnson and Department of Health cancer programme head Stephen Waring.

Issues include the 'role of strategic health authorities in ensuring local delivery of national policies' and whether 'national targets help health professionals in providing high quality care for patients'.