The future shape of the specialty

Clinical oncology – the future shape of the specialty

The majority of non-surgical oncology treatment in the UK is planned and supervised by clinical oncologists. However, the scope of these treatments, their continued development and complexity, and an increase in the number of patients seeking treatment means that the specialty is dealing with a continually increasing demand, a trend which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The RCR has therefore undertaken an in-depth review of clinical oncology as a specialty, to examine current ways of working and to see how best the specialty can develop over the next ten years to enhance the scope and quality of non-surgical oncology offered in UK cancer centres.

Clinical oncology – the future shape of the specialty addresses both the current scope of practice for clinical oncology and the ways in which the service is currently delivered. It also indicates how both of these are expected to change over the next ten years. It is anticipated that clinical oncology will remain a broad-based specialty. It is gratifying that radiotherapy currently has such a high public and political profile. There will need to be a growing focus on the provision of high quality radiotherapy, with the further development of advanced techniques such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy, image-guided radiotherapy and stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, as well as other innovative technologies such as the future delivery of proton therapy and expansion in molecular radiotherapy.

Clinical oncology workforce: the case for expansion

A key part of the above review is an analysis of the workforce that will be needed to maintain the UK’s clinical oncology service but also to allow for delivery of increasingly complex and high quality radiotherapy for patients. A second document entitled Clinical oncology workforce: the case for expansion contains analyses of current and anticipated  patterns of practice and workload for clinical oncology departments, and current workforce, to support the case for expansion in the clinical oncology workforce. It provides the evidence for the need for workforce expansion outlined in Clinical oncology – the future shape of the specialty. The RCR recognises that delivery of an increased workforce is only one element in meeting the demand for clinical oncology services. Changes in working practices, particularly addressing the workforce skill mix at local and national levels, will also be needed.