Long-term plan vital on cancer

Alan Campbell MP.
Alan Campbell MP.

Last week’s World Cancer Day brought organisations and people around the world together to raise awareness about cancer and work to make it a global health priority.

Leading cancer charities brought their campaigns to parliament and the statistics make stark reading.

Half of people will get cancer in their lifetime. There are around 1,300 cancer cases annually in our local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), but behind every statistic is a real story of someone and someone’s family whose life is turned upside down.

We’ve made some progress in recent years.

North Tyneside CCG has a better than average record of bowel screening, an above average record on urgent referral for treatment, and a good record on waits for radiotherapy. Too many patients, however, are first diagnosed at emergency presentation stage.

A growing population and rising referrals will inevitably increase pressure on cancer services. Almost four in ten cancer cases could be prevented, and we need to redouble our efforts to cut the primary causes of cancer, including smoking and obesity.

Amongst the pledges made in the government’s Ten-Year Plan is a commitment to address workforce shortages.

One in ten diagnostic posts in England are vacant. More cancer cases will increase the pressure.

Cancer outcomes cannot improve without the right staff, equipped with the right skills, including staff recruited from the EU and wider afield.

What’s needed is a fully-funded, long-term cancer workforce plan to meet rising demand.