RCR responds to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new Cancer Strategy and focus on early diagnosis

Wednesday 3 October 2018

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has welcomed Theresa May’s focus on early detection of cancer in her Conservative Party Conference speech today, while questioning how a step-change will be achieved without funding for more radiologists and clinical oncologists.  

Dr Nicola Strickland, President of the RCR said:

“The RCR was extremely pleased to hear the Prime Minister recognises how crucial early diagnosis is to surviving cancer, and to give cancer detection such prominence in her keynote conference speech.   

“Her announcement of a new Cancer Strategy was a surprise, and we hope to see it improve upon the existing five-year English Cancer Strategy, which had an ambitious purpose when it was launched in 2015 but has made slow progress in improving outcomes for patients because of lack of investment in new staff and in vital imaging and radiotherapy equipment1

“Without doubt the NHS needs better diagnostic equipment – surveys have shown one-in-ten computed tomography scanners2 and nearly a third of magnetic resonance scanners3 in UK hospitals are technically obsolete. 

“The promise of widespread Rapid Diagnostic Centres is fantastic in theory – but it needs to be substantiated and thought through before it can become reality. We’ve seen these centres have great success in Denmark – not only picking up more cancer cases, but also a whole range of diseases and conditions that can then be treated earlier – and trials in the UK have been encouraging. But these clinics require dedicated imaging and cancer doctors to treat patients and since our radiologist and clinical oncologist workforce is already running at a deficit4,5, who is going to staff them?   

“We very much look forward to seeing the detail of the Government’s new Cancer Strategy and hope that both it, and the forthcoming NHS Long Term Plan for England, actively address the missing element in the Prime Minister’s speech – our struggling workforce. 

“We know our hospitals have the capacity and full capability to train the radiologists needed to bring about Mrs May’s promised step-change in early cancer diagnosis, if only the Government would fund more radiology trainees. The very latest scanners and one-stop clinics will be useless to patients without the increased numbers of imaging doctors and oncologists we will need to run them.” 


References

  1. The RCR’s English Cancer Strategy, Two Years On report
  2. Aged Asset report by The Association of Healthcare Technology Providers for Imaging, Radiotherapy and Care
  3. Clinical Imaging Board, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Equipment, Operations and Planning in the NHS
  4. RCR Clinical Radiology UK Workforce Census 2017
  5. RCR Clinical Oncology UK Workforce Census Report 2017