There is no question that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions to cancer care services in the UK, resulting in substantial backlogs. Despite their best efforts, the insurmountable obstacles faced by the NHS have led to delays in both diagnosis and treatment for cancer.
Between March and September last year, 350,000 fewer people were referred to cancer specialists than during the same period the year before and throughout 2020, 40,000 fewer people began treatment for cancer than in 2019. Worryingly, Breast Cancer Now has estimated that up to 12,000 people could be living with undiagnosed breast cancer, as a result of screening delays directly brought about by the pandemic.
Today, an estimated 16,000 people are waiting over 62 days for a cancer diagnosis. Diagnosing cancer and beginning treatment quickly is essential. The devastating impact of delays in cancer care is an inevitable increase in avoidable deaths from cancer.
GETTING CANCER SERVICES BACK ON TRACK
In order for the NHS to provide a cancer care service which meets the needs of the British public, it will be necessary to address not just the backlogs and delays created by the pandemic, but also those which existed beforehand.
Although the NHS has achieved incredible results in terms of reducing backlogs and getting services back on track, a great deal of work remains to be done before cancer care can return to – or better still exceed – pre-pandemic levels. Even before the pandemic, the NHS was experiencing capacity challenges which led to dangerous delays in cancer screening and treatment.
BUILD BACK BETTER
The UK Government’s Build Back Better initiative focuses on just this: the idea that not only can we overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19, but that essential services can come back stronger than ever. In order to achieve this, the government has laid down ambitious plans to tackle not just the backlog in screening, treatment and elective care, but also to help the NHS to evolve into a more robust, sustainable organisation which can withstand any further challenges the future may bring.
The government has pledged over £8 billion in the next three years to “tackle (the) elective backlog in the biggest catchup programme in the NHS’s history”, and facilitate a 30% increase – on pre-pandemic levels – in elective activity. This will be achieved through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector which will increase capacity, resulting in the delivery of additional procedures and treatments, “improving the quality and quantity of patient care through a more efficient service”.
This shift in focus to a more long-term approach which relies more heavily on collaboration with the private sector is a positive change, and one which is necessary if the NHS is to continue to navigate the uncertain waters ahead.
But is it too optimistic to view some of the challenges exposed by the pandemic as a ‘silver lining’? Perhaps not. Using the wealth of data gathered during the pandemic, the health service now has a unique opportunity to ‘build back better’ for cancer patients; learn from the mistakes of the past and develop a more efficient, more sustainable service which meets the needs of both patients and staff and can take the NHS into the future.
HOW MEDINET IS SUPPORTING THE NHS
We work with a number of NHS Trusts, creating tailor-made action plans which target the areas where help is needed most. We don’t simply provide additional staff to help you reduce waiting lists. We take time to find out what you need, helping you to build an improved, more efficient service model which is better suited to treating your cancer patients.
By increasing capacity, we also provide invaluable support to existing staff, many of whom have been affected by increased workloads as a result of staffing shortages. By reducing pressure on services and relieving some of the burden and stress on clinicians, we can help ensure that cancer screening services operate more efficiently, and patients are seen as quickly as possible.
MEDINET’S ONCOLOGY SERVICES
We offer a range of tailor-made oncology services including cancer diagnosis and treatment. Our experienced team of skilled consultants and nurses are already helping a number of NHS trusts get their oncology services back on track, tackle backlogs and reduce waiting lists.
We can support with:
- Tumor removal
- Radiation therapy
375,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in the UK each year, and timely diagnosis and treatment are essential to improve survival rates.
Our clinical teams can be mobilised in as little as two weeks. Get in touch to find out how Medinet can support your department, help reduce backlogs and improve outcomes for patients.