RCR responds to report into cancer and elective care waiting times in England

Wednesday 12 June 2019

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said the ongoing failure of many hospitals to meet targets for cancer and elective care is “unacceptable” and called on officials to be more accountable for improving standards.

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has roundly welcomed the main thrust of today’s PAC report into waiting times in England, which clearly urges increased involvement and oversight from healthcare leaders in NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in order to improve waiting times and safeguard the future care of patients.

RCR President Dr Nicola Strickland said:

“Waiting times targets are hugely important and should act as a driver to ensure all patients receive high quality, consistent care.

“But we know many hospitals and cancer centres are struggling to meet them for want of more doctors and other healthcare workers, more capital investment in equipment and IT connectivity and more support to implement innovative ways of working.

“Like the committee, we appreciate factors set to influence NHS resourcing are pending, but vehemently agree that does not mean NHSE/I leaders and DHSC can remain uninvolved, as local services continue to work flat-out to meet demand.

“The overarching NHS direction of travel towards Integrated Care Systems and service networking means local providers need more direction, investment and support from Government and arms length bodies, not less. The ultimate goal of ‘place-based’ tightly-mapped care and networked support can only be realised with better IT connectivity, which will not materialise without centralised funding and oversight.

“We are extremely pleased to see the PAC report highlights the need for clearer planning on reducing diagnostics bottlenecks. In particular, fast, accurate diagnostic imaging is fundamental to hospital care, but many of our imaging services are desperately understaffed. Without investment to tackle the NHS’ chronic shortage of consultant radiologists it is hard to imagine any improvement in waiting times, and patient care will suffer.  

“We very much welcome the strong stance taken by the PAC, and look forward to more detailed accountability and resourcing plans if, and when, officials formally respond later this year – though ultimately waiting times (and whatever metrics are used in future to assess targets for cancer and elective care) will only improve through boosting workforce and resourcing across diagnostic imaging and cancer care.”