Extra funding urged for cancer services to meet growing demand of ageing population

NHS cancer services in England need funding boosts to meet the “looming demands” of an ageing population, a report has found.

Services are under mounting pressure due to growing demand, efficiency savings and the Government’s health service reforms, according to the new Cancer Research UK-commissioned report.

As the British population ages there will be more and more cases of cancer, and in order to meet this growing demand, the NHS needs “increased investment, planning and leadership now”, charity chief executive Harpal Kumar said.

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The report, written by experts at the University of Birmingham and research company ICF GHK Consulting, acknowledges the NHS in England is under “considerable pressure” because of tight purse strings and the impact of the NHS reforms – which came into force in April last year.

The authors said real-term spending on cancer peaked in 2009/2010 at £5.9bn with spend in 2012/13 reducing to £5.7bn.

The Government should increase investment in cancer services – particularly in diagnostic services where demand is starting to “outstrip the resources available”, they said.

They also identified “widespread concern” that capacity is not keeping up with current demands which could affect patients.

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Mr Kumar said: “In many ways, NHS cancer services have held up remarkably well. Staff have bravely dug in and done their best in the face of overwhelming change, increased demand, squeezed budgets and fragmented leadership. But that cannot continue indefinitely.

“In their own words the people that have propped up these NHS services tell us in this report that ‘enough is enough’.

“They can’t go on like this with no help or support coming over the horizon. And they certainly can’t improve services so that our cancer outcomes are up there with the best in the world.

“More people are surviving cancer than ever before – survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years because research is delivering better diagnosis and treatments. But the number of cases is also going up as the UK population ages.”