There were 367,167 new cancer diagnoses in the UK between 2015 and 2017. Although cancer survival has overall doubled in the UK over the last 40 years, variations remain and mortality rates for some cancers (e.g. liver) are on the rise. And forecasts show that the number of people getting cancer is likely to increase, with over 500,000 cases projected in 2035.
The NHS Long Term Plan for Cancer states that “by 2021, where appropriate every person diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised care, including needs assessment, a care plan and health and wellbeing information and support.”
However, in the last year, people living with cancer have faced additional challenges, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to:
- Delays in diagnosis.
- Delays in treatment.
- Less access to additional support provided by the voluntary and community sector.
Our recent work and research show the extent to which COVID-19 has negatively impacted people living with cancer and will continue doing so:
- The national breast screening programme is unlikely to recover fully until March 2022.
- There were significantly fewer “first treatments” recorded in April to December 2020.
- People are waiting much longer than usual on cancer diagnostic pathways.
Providers (acute, community, specialist) are currently working hard to plan and support the recovery of cancer services, and our work has shown us the key enablers to make this happen:
- Invest appropriately in all parts of the pathway, from prevention, through to diagnosis and treatment, into living with and beyond cancer, and end of life care.
- Consider the appropriate staff number and skill mix every step of the way: cancer nurses and Allied Health Professionals are key players in the wider multi-disciplinary team.
- Address the real and perceived barriers that service users might experience, taking into account the needs of excluded communities and ensuring that people are not disadvantaged due to their gender, sexuality, age, socio-economic status, religion or any other characteristic.
- Learn from and build on good practice that developed during the pandemic: new relationships and effective ways of working can be nurtured going forward.
What are you doing in your area to restore cancer services and ensure patients and staff are supported in these challenging times?