NHS Delivery Plan still failing cancer patients says The Royal College of Radiologists

Friday 31 March 2017

Commenting on today’s update on the NHS England Five-Year Forward view delivery plans to tackle early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, Dr Nicola Strickland, President of The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) said:

“We applaud the ambition of these updated plans but remain saddened by the lack of detail about delivery. In short, these are delivery plans that are still failing to deliver. While the plans appear to address the need to speed up and expand diagnostic capacity and promise continued investment in radiotherapy services, they will still fail to enable the outcomes envisaged by the English Cancer Strategy1 as the workforce needed to deliver them has not been funded.”

The idea of rapid diagnostic and assessment centres is admirable, but this is very unlikely to lead to patients getting their test results any sooner. There are already almost a quarter of a million patients waiting over a month for the results of scans in the UK due to a severe shortage of radiologists.  

Investment in radiotherapy can only be good for cancer patients. What we need to ensure sustainability is a fully funded, rolling linear accelerators (LINACs) replacement programme. This upgrade is no more than a stopgap measure and not the transformation promised by the Cancer Strategy.

The additional 35 training places for clinical radiologists are welcome but sadly that will make very little impression on the 460-plus consultant radiologist vacancies. Neither will it begin to match radiology capacity in Europe: the UK has less than eight radiologists per 100,000 population; the average in mainland Europe is 12.

Dr Strickland added:

“In summary, the absence of detail on the implementation of these plans is disappointing. Patients and doctors were hoping to see a meaningful and serious commitment to meeting the ambitions of the Cancer Strategy. These plans fail to deliver this.” 

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Notes to editors:

1. Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a Strategy for England 2015-2020.