‘Unrelenting pressure’ compromising cancer care

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Unsustainable pressures on primary care services are having detrimental effects on the cancer care workforce, according to a new report.

A survey by Macmillan Cancer Support reports that more than half (52%) of responding GPs and nurses are not confident the NHS can provide adequate care to cancer patients.

Of those responding to the survey:

  • Just under half (44%) said cancer treatment is being delayed because of strains on primary care services
  • More than one-third (37%) said existing pressures are leading cancer patients to A&E services when no alternative help is available
  • Nearly one-third (31%) reported a lack of support for patients post-treatment, resulting in poor quality of life.

Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘The story of NHS cancer care in 2017 so far is one of unrelenting pressure, and it is now clear that many hardworking doctors and nurses are seriously concerned about how the health service is coping with the pressures placed on it.

‘Attending A&E because they can’t get help elsewhere or waiting too long for treatment should be a rare event for someone being treated for cancer, but this research suggests this could be becoming worryingly routine.’

More than 250 GPs and nurses across the country responded to the Charity’s survey. The survey also found that increasing numbers of patients, vacancies in key roles, and the growing complexity of cancer are viewed as driving factors for workforce deficits.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: ‘GPs and our teams can certainly empathise with some of the concerns highlighted by our colleagues at Macmillan today...’

She continued: ‘GPs are doing a good job of identifying and treating our patients with cancer– 75% of patients found to have cancer are referred after only one or two GP consultations despite many early stage cancers presenting in vague ways. And in the last five years the proportion of cancers diagnosed as an emergency has dropped from 25% to 20%.

‘Today’s figures should be a wake-up call that it isn’t just GPs highlighting the pressures facing our profession – but charities and patients too.’