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Petition Invest urgently in the NHS cancer workforce in the autumn Spending Review

Covid-19 exposed the terrible strain the NHS cancer workforce has been under for years. This is now the greatest threat facing the NHS. We are calling for the Government to use the Spending Review to fund the additional provision of NHS staff to diagnose, treat and care for cancer patients.

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We can’t ignore this any longer. Unless the Government acts now to tackle the shortages in the cancer care workforce, this crisis is set to get worse. The Government must put forward a fully funded plan to increase the number of staff and train the future cancer workforce.

This call is supported by Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Now, Anthony Nolan, Blood Cancer UK, Bowel Cancer UK, Brain Tumour Research, Teenage Cancer Trust, Young Lives vs Cancer, Target Ovarian Cancer, Cancer52, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Sarcoma UK, Leukaemia Care, Prostate Cancer UK, Action Radiotherapy, Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce.

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Government responded

This response was given on 19 October 2021

Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a priority throughout the pandemic. Funding for the NHS workforce will be confirmed as part of the Spending Review.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a top priority throughout the pandemic, with 3.3 million urgent referrals and over 810,000 people receiving cancer treatment between March 2020 and August 2021. Thanks to the brilliant work of NHS staff we maintained cancer treatment at 104% of pre-pandemic levels in August 2021. Cancer referrals in July and August 2021 remained high at over 10,000 per working day.

The NHS are focusing on recovery from the pandemic by March 2022. The “Help Us to Help You” campaign encourages people with symptoms to come forward. Cancer referrals in April and May 2021 were at an all-time high. An additional £1bn funding has been made available to the NHS in 2021/22 to support the start of this recovery of elective activity, including the recovery of cancer services.

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out key ambitions to improve cancer survival and outcomes. The Cancer Workforce Plan Phase 1, (https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Cancer%20Workforce%20Plan%20phase%201%20progress%20update%20FINAL.pdf) developed by Health Education England (HEE) with partners, was published in December 2017. This committed to the expansion of capacity and skills by 2021, including an ambition to grow the cancer workforce across identified key professions by 1500 FTE by 2021. This also includes:

• training an additional 200 clinical endoscopists by 2021 (in addition to the 200 trained by 2018);

• 300 additional radiographers trained in image interpretation and reporting;

• An ambition to increase improved working practices, attracting qualified people back to the NHS through domestic and international recruitment;

• more clinical radiologists, histopathologists, oncologists and radiographers; and

• development/training for new and aspiring Cancer Nurse Specialists and development of common and consistent competencies for this role with a clear route into training.

HEE published a Cancer Workforce Plan phase 1 progress update in 2019 (https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Cancer%20Workforce%20Plan%20phase%201%20progress%20update%20FINAL.pdf).

Spending Review 2020 provided £260 million to continue to grow our NHS workforce and support commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan. This built on funding previously confirmed at Budget 20 to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of the parliament and to create an additional 50 million appointments in general practice a year.

The £260 million included £52m in 2021/22 for HEE to further invest in the cancer and diagnostics workforce including funding to:

• support growth and transformation of the cancer nursing workforce. This includes developing new and existing cancer nurse specialists (e.g. by offering training grants for 250 nurses wishing to become Cancer Clinical nurse specialists and for an additional 100 nurses wishing to become chemotherapy nurses) supporting return to practice to cancer nursing, developing standardised routes for development of cancer support workers and developing a standard competency framework for cancer clinical nurse specialists.

• support the earlier diagnosis of cancer. This includes specific programmes such as increasing the number of clinical endoscopists trained, creating extra skilled capacity and helping to free up the existing medical workforce to focus on more complex cases such as bowel cancer screening; and training more radiographers in image interpretation and reporting, to support rising demand for imaging services and free up clinical radiologists to use their specialist skills in more complex cases.

• expand the scientific workforce through recognised training programmes and apprenticeships across healthcare science roles within pathology, imaging and physiological services.

• expand the postgraduate medical training commencing in 2021/22 of key cancer-related medical professions, including clinical radiologists and oncologists. Whilst these individuals will be in training for some years this expansion is a key part of the cancer workforce plans looking to the longer term.

£36 billion will be invested in the health and care system over the next three years, to ensure it has the long term resource it needs. Allocations and profiles will be confirmed as part of the Spending Review, which will set out the Government’s Spending plans for health and social care for future years, including the NHS Workforce. The Spending Review is set to be announced on 27th October 2021.

Department for Health and Social Care

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Other parliamentary business

MPs hold inquiry into cancer services in England

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is holding an inquiry into why cancer outcomes in England continue to lag behind comparable countries internationally. The Committee is examining evidence relating to the underlying causes of these differences.

The Committee is also considering what impact disruption to cancer services during the covid-19 pandemic have had on efforts to catch up, and whether the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan will help close the gap with the best performing countries worldwide.

Read about the inquiry here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/news/156443/mps-seek-evidence-on-why-england-lags-behind-in-cancer-survival/

You can find future announcements about the inquiry here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/

The submission period for written evidence for this inquiry has now passed, but you can view submitted written evidence here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/publications/

We’re letting you know about this inquiry because you signed a petition calling on the Government to invest in the NHS cancer workforce in the autumn spending review, and we thought this inquiry may be of interest to you.

What is the Health and Social Care Committee?

The Health and Social Care Committee scrutinises the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and its associated public bodies. It examines government policy, spending and administration on behalf of the electorate and the House of Commons. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/81/health-and-social-care-committee/

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CommonsHealth

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/

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