Cancer workforce figures will not be published, says Health Education England

Calls for data to be released to inform improvements in services
Alison Leary

Health Education England (HEE) has confirmed that it will not be publishing baseline figures for the current cancer workforce, which were due to be released in June.

The confirmation comes amid calls to publish the data to highlight workforce pressures in the sector.

A recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC) looked at the progress of NHS England’s cancer strategy implementation plan; it highlighted concerns about the ‘lack of visible progress’ and that some of the timescales set out in the plan had slipped.

An HEE spokesperson said that although its baseline data had been shared with the Cancer Taskforce Board and National Cancer Advisory Group, there were no plans to publish the document.

HEE is due to deliver a strategic review of the cancer workforce by March 2017.

Huge pressures

Macmillan Cancer Support head of policy Duleep Allirajah said: ‘We recognise that the growing number of people living with cancer places huge pressures on healthcare staff. Macmillan has been supporting HEE in its work to understand the current state of the cancer workforce.

‘Publishing baseline figures would help to highlight the extent of these pressures so that improvements can ensure everyone with cancer has access to the support they need.’

Alison Leary, professor of health care and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, said the baseline data was essential to track trends in the cancer workforce.

She added: ‘Engagement with some cancer stakeholders is a welcome development. However, it’s disappointing that these figures will not be made public or, if they are, it will be after a considerable delay, which will perhaps render them inaccurate.’

Improving outcomes

Cancer Research UK head of policy Emma Greenwood said: 'HEE's review of the cancer workforce is important to ensure we have the right people in the NHS to meet the cancer strategy’s ambitions of improving outcomes that matter to patients.

‘HEE needs to share its findings with all the relevant organisations in the sector so they can continue to contribute to the review.’

An HEE spokesperson said: ‘HEE and the National Cancer Transformation Board are leading on a major piece of work to address workforce challenges in transforming cancer services, which includes a skills mix review.’

The spokesperson added that HEE was working with Macmillan on a ‘system-wide’ solution to increase the capacity of cancer nurse specialists.