New policy review reveals ten cancer challenges facing new UK government

Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that cancer affects more than three million people in the UK

A new policy review by oncologists and experts from across the UK, including King’s College London (KCL), has revealed the ten biggest challenges facing the new UK Government in the fight against cancer.

Published in Lancet OncologyThe review highlights time-sensitive issues that impact on the delivery of cancer care in the NHS and that need to be addressed urgently as part of a comprehensive national cancer control plan.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, it is estimated that there are more than three million people living with cancer in the UK, with breast cancer being the most common disease, affecting more than 55,000 people.

The authors said the UK’s NHS was lagging behind other countries and if not prioritised could put additional strain on the healthcare system, deepen social inequalities and undermine the economic recovery.

The review highlighted several ongoing failures to reduce inequalities in cancer survival, warned of delays in treatment and warned that new developments, such as new diagnostic tests, had been identified as solutions to the cancer crisis; however, the document made clear that “none of these address the fundamental issues of cancer as a systemic problem”.

To address these challenges, experts have developed a series of recommendations aimed at improving the survival, quality of life and experience of cancer patients in the UK.

Policy recommendations include tackling social inequalities in access to cancer treatment and outcomes by establishing an NHS Taskforce to develop policy solutions; identifying spare capacity through modelling, developing regional capacity management and testing operational interventions to speed up processes such as waiting times to reduce the backlog of cancer tests; expanding national audits across the UK; and exploring how hospitals and specialists can make changes to address differences in the quality of cancer care across the NHS.

As Richard Sullivan, a senior fellow at the Institute of Cancer Policy, commented: “The new national cancer plan will need to take a holistic approach, integrating solutions to key areas such as the workforce, quality of services and social equity.”