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NHS lacks enough staff and equipment to give adequate cancer care, says survey

A survey has found the NHS does not have enough staff or equipment to provide adequate cancer care (Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust/PA)
A survey has found the NHS does not have enough staff or equipment to provide adequate cancer care (Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust/PA)

The NHS has too few staff and not enough equipment to give people the cancer care they deserve, a poll has found.

The YouGov survey of almost 2,500 adults for Cancer Research UK found 75% of people agreed with the statement: “I don’t think the health service has enough staff or equipment to see, test and treat all the people with cancer who need to be seen, tested and treated.”

Of those who have had cancer, 76% agreed.

The poll also found that 80% of people who knew somebody who has had the disease did not think the NHS had the resources to meet demand.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said:  “It’s deeply troubling that those who have close encounters with cancer think NHS services are underequipped and understaffed.

“The Health Secretary’s upcoming 10-year plan is the perfect opportunity to bring the UK’s cancer outcomes in line with similar countries around the world.

“We need a plan that works for all, with much greater investment in the workforce and accountability for the Government.

“This is what cancer patients deserve and without it, the doctors and nurses needed to quickly diagnose and treat cancer, and ultimately save lives, will remain under immense pressure.”

In March, just 67% of people in England were diagnosed and started cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, below the 85% target.

This target has not been met since 2015.

According to Cancer Research UK, pressure on diagnostic services is a key reason why there are delays, despite more people being referred for tests.

Chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, Professor Charles Swanton, said: “I have worked in the NHS for 23 years and it’s difficult to watch the continuous deterioration of services.

“In the UK, we have world-leading research, and we should be aiming for cancer services which match that in the upcoming 10-year plan.

“Cancer incidence rates in the UK are increasing so the pressure on services is only going to grow.

“I would argue NHS staff are motivated by wanting to help people, but right now, there simply isn’t the time for them to develop those invaluable patient relationships.

“Although exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, issues of understaffing have been years in the making.

“For instance, according to a British Medical Association report, the UK is short of 49,000 doctors relative to the average number of doctors per head of the population in OECD countries.”

The poll comes as a separate survey for the charity Melanoma Focus found only one in five people feel confident they could identify the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.