UK not making enough progress on 75% target of diagnosing cancer at an early stage

The Health and Social Care Committee has warned that NHS England is struggling to make progress on its flagship 2028 target of diagnosing 75% of cancer cases at an early stage. Early diagnosis is key in improving cancer survival but unfortunately, no improvement has been made in the last six years in achieving this target, made worse by disruption and staffing shortages during the pandemic. Currently, only 54% of cancer cases in the UK are being diagnosed at an early stage.

Professor Gordon Wishart, founder, and Chief Medical Officer at Check4Cancer talks with Shelagh Fogarty on LBC radio on why the UK is lagging so far behind other high-income countries in early-stage cancer diagnoses. Professor Wishart discusses how at the start of the pandemic when the private sector was called upon to offer essential treatment though the pandemic to ease the burden on the NHS, many of the cancer consultants and beds lay fallow and were not used. There seemed to be a failure by Government to recognise the massive impact on an already strained NHS, that halting cancer services through the pandemic would only increase the likelihood that people would miss out on early cancer diagnosis.  Large parts of the healthcare workforce were redeployed to cope with pandemic admissions, but many cancer surgeons in the NHS and private sector were not utilised.

Professor Wishart states that we need a short and long-term workforce plan, using the private sector in the short term to help plug staff shortages, he further comments that without a radical new cancer plan such as appointing a minister in charge of cancer services supported by an independent body that the UK’s cancer survival rates will continue to lag behind many other countries. Without a radical approach to tackling the cancer crisis the Health and Social Care Committee’s warning that 340,000 people will miss out on early cancer diagnosis will sadly become a fact.

You can watch the interview here