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Specialist cancer workforce too stretched to meet future demand, MPs warn

A severe shortage of specialist staff means people with cancer are facing delays in receiving a diagnosis and accessing treatment, MPs warn.

A lack of progress has been made in improving access to specialist cancer nursing for patients in England, an inquiry by MPs has found.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC) has produced a report incorporating the views of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Anthony Nolan, Breast Cancer Care and Prostate Cancer UK.

The report assesses how effective the government has been at implementing the recommendations of the countrys five-year cancer strategy, which was introduced in 2015.

Referring to evidence provided by the charities, the report notes their concerns that there had been a lack of progress made on the strategy recommendation requiring improved access to specialist cancer nursing for patients.

Another key concern highlighted by the MPs themselves is the delay in the publication of Health Education Englands (HEE) Cancer Workforce Plan for England, which was expected in December 2016 yet was only published

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A lack of progress has been made in improving access to specialist cancer nursing for patients in England, an inquiry by MPs has found.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC) has produced a report incorporating the views of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Anthony Nolan, Breast Cancer Care and Prostate Cancer UK.

The report assesses how effective the government has been at implementing the recommendations of the country’s five-year cancer strategy, which was introduced in 2015.

Referring to evidence provided by the charities, the report notes ‘their concerns that there had been a lack of progress made on the strategy recommendation requiring improved access to specialist cancer nursing for patients’.

Another key concern highlighted by the MPs themselves is the delay in the publication of Health Education England’s (HEE) Cancer Workforce Plan for England, which was expected in December 2016 yet was only published this month.

Although HEE intends to expand cancer nurse specialist numbers, its plan also reveals that a detailed report into the wider contribution of nursing to cancer will not be published until Spring 2018.

Writing in the APPGC report, chair John Baron, the Conservative MP for Basildon and Billericay, states: ‘The challenges facing the cancer workforce were raised as a significant threat to the success of the cancer strategy.

‘The implementation of many recommendations turn on having enough staff, with the right skills, to deliver cancer services.

‘We were dismayed that a strategic review of the cancer workforce has been significantly delayed, given this underpins the success of the entire strategy.’

Macmillan Cancer Support executive director of policy and impact Fran Woodard said: ‘We are particularly concerned about the lack of progress made over the past couple of years in ensuring the cancer workforce is fit to meet increased future demand.

‘Doctors and nurses working in cancer care have told us that they are currently seriously overstretched, and this is beginning to affect patient care.

‘The health secretary and NHS England must urgently address the concerns raised in the report if we are to see the change that is needed in the promised timeframe.’

Further information:

All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer Inquiry Progress of the England Cancer Strategy: Delivering outcomes by 2020?

HEE Cancer Workforce Plan

In other news:

Jeremy Hunt calls for multi-year deal on nurses’ pay

RCN governing body elect new chair and vice-chair

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