On Wednesday the NHS Confederation announced Niall Dickson as its new Chief Executive.
A former Editor at Nursing Times and Social Affairs Editor at the BBC, Mr Dickson headed the King’s Fund from 2004-2009, and subsequently the General Medical Council (GMC) from 2010 to the end of 2016. He joins former health minister and NHS Confederation Chair Stephen Dorrell at the top of the organisation and replaces interim Chief Executive Stephen Dalton. Mr Dickson will begin his new role on 1 February.
Commenting on his appointment Mr Dickson said, "It’s a great privilege to join the Confederation as it works with its members and partners to deliver better, safer care and the fundamental reforms that are needed to make the system sustainable. The health and social care system is under massive strain facing unprecedented demand and severely constrained funding. These are monumental challenges and there has never been a more important time for its various parts to come together locally and nationally."
The NHS Confederation's announcement can be read here. A Health Service Journal (HSJ) (£) article on the appointment is available to read here, with further details expected to be available in due course.
Lord O'Shaughnessy appointed as new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health
The Government has announced that Lord O'Shaughnessy (Con) has been appointed as the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health. Lord O'Shaughnessy replaces Lord Prior of Brampton (Con), who moves to become Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Lord O'Shaughnessy was raised to the peerage in 2015 and served as David Cameron's Director of Policy at No.10 for four years.
As Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, Lord O'Shaughnessy will lead on a range of policy areas, with the following particularly relevant to cancer services:
Cancer Drugs Fund
Medicines and industry
Uptake of new drugs and medical technologies
Life sciences industry
Reducing clinical variation
Academic health science centres
The Government's press release can be found here. The Independent has also reported on the appointment here.
NHS England has detailed the progress it has made in implementing the Cancer Strategy in a recent board paper. Examples given of progress made in the last year include:
- The establishment of 16 Cancer Alliances
- The announcement of a £130 million investment in new radiotherapy equipment over the next two years
- Reforms to the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF)
- Testing of a new 28-day Faster Diagnosis Standard in five areas of the country
- The launch of a new Cancer Dashboard with data and intelligence about performance and patient outcomes, in one place
£200 million of funding will be made available to Cancer Alliances over the next two years, to drive faster and earlier diagnosis, implement the Recovery Package and roll out "stratified follow-up pathways".
The 16 Cancer Alliances and three National Cancer Vanguards are grouped into four regions:
- North East and Cumbria
- Lancashire and South Cumbria
- Cheshire and Merseyside
- West Yorkshire
- Humber, Coast and Vale
- South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
- National Cancer Vanguard: Greater Manchester
- Midlands and East
- West Midlands
- East Midlands
- East of England
- Thames Valley
- Kent and Medway
- Surrey and Sussex
- Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon & Gloucestershire
- South East London
- National Cancer Vanguard: UCLH partners
- National Cancer Vanguard: Royal Marsden partners
The full Board paper can be viewed here.
On Thursday 8 December MPs debated the Cancer Strategy: One Year On, in a General Debate in the House of Commons.
The debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following representation from John Baron MP (Con, Basildon and Billericay), who also holds the position of Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC).
Vice-Chair of the APPGC, Nik Dakin MP (Lab, Scunthorpe) led the debate. Mr Dakin opened proceedings by informing the House that more than 2.4 million people in the UK currently lived with cancer. He then discussed the significant developments in cancer policy over the past two years, highlighting that, since the strategy was last debated in November 2015, NHS England had published its implementation plan for the cancer strategy , in which it set out how it would roll out the 96 recommendations.
Other key points raised in the debate include the need for:
- Cancer patients to have timely access to mental health services
- Continued progress on early diagnosis, welcoming commitments made by Simon Stevens at Britain Against Cancer this week
- Careful consideration about the impact of proposed changes to the highly specialised technologies threshold on rarer cancers
- Continued action in public health initiatives, including smoking cessation campaigns
- Investment in radiotherapy services
- Continued debate on this topic
A full transcript of the debate can be read here.
On Thursday 8 December MPs will debate the Cancer Strategy: One Year On, in a General Debate in the House of Commons.
This debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following representation from John Baron MP, who also holds the position of Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC).
MPs will have an opportunity to debate the progress of the Cancer Strategy report, published in July 2015, and the accompanying implementation plan, published in May 2016. The debate follows the APPGC publishing the report of its inquiry into the progress in implementing the Cancer Strategy, in September 2016. The APPGC report can be accessed here.
Details of the debate can be found here.
Teenage girls with cancer are not being given enough advice about their future fertility, or the opportunity to freeze their eggs, according to Valerie Peddie, a fertility expert.
Ms Peddie, Director of fertility nursing at the University of Aberdeen, highlighted the problem at the Royal College of Nursing's Centenary Conference, on Tuesday. She told the conference that it was often left up to the patient's mother to ask about the options for freezing eggs.
NHS hospitals regularly offer to freeze the sperm of young men facing chemotherapy, while failing to inform young women of the opportunity to cryopreserve their eggs.
Ms Peddie said, "Deciding whether to have children is a central part of many lives, and no one should be denied this opportunity because they were unaware of their options...Teenage patients are unlikely to have even considered their future fertility or know it could be impacted by their cancer treatment, therefore it is essential that these issues are raised and discussed by healthcare staff."
Research published by the University of Sheffield has estimated that, unless urgent action is taken, alcohol-related cancers will cause up to 135,000 deaths and cost the NHS £2bn by 2035.
The study examined the potential impact of a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) for alcohol in England. The University of Sheffield's analysis 'found that a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol could, over 20 years, reduce alcohol-related deaths in England by about 7,200, including about 670 cancer deaths. It would also reduce healthcare costs by £1.3bn, the research suggests.'
The Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Prof Sir Ian Gilmore said: “It is clear from the report that MUP will save lives, including those lost to cancer, and ease the burden on our health service. Importantly, MUP will do this while leaving moderate drinkers and prices in pubs and bars unaffected."
The Guardian has reported on analysis of NHS-wide performance data which shows that 133,138 patients last year did not see a cancer specialist within the required 14 day waiting time following referral, as hospitals struggled with the growing number of patients.
The article states that 6,713 patients did not receive their first treatment within 31 days and a further 24,285 were not treated within 62 days, despite being referred urgently by their family doctor. It is also stated that the NHS has breached the 62 day target in every quarter for the last two and a half years*.
Dr Giles Maskell, former-President of the Royal College of Radiologists, said, "There are gaps right across the NHS cancer workforce, including oncologists, therapists, nutritionists, nurse specialists and other groups. The shortage of radiologists – who interpret x-rays and scans – is so serious that one university hospital in the south-east recently had 11 of its 33 consultant radiologist posts unfilled because there were too few applicants".
A spokesman from the Department of Health said in a statement, “The reality is the NHS is seeing over 90% more patients with suspected cancer within two weeks – that’s over 800,000 more people – and treating nearly 50,000 more patients following a GP referral compared to 2010.”
*Since this story was published, latest provider-based waiting time data shows that the 62 day target has been breached for eleven consecutive quarters since Q4 2013-14. More detail is provided below.
The Health Select Committee has called for the Government to address the severity of the financial shortage facing the NHS.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee, in a letter written to Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, states that “the continued use of the figure of ten billion pounds for the additional health spending up to 2020/21 is not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash.”
The letter makes two requests, “The first is that it seriously consider a means of increasing the capital funding available to the NHS… The second is that the Government responds to the crisis in social care provision.”
The letter is also signed by: Dr James Davies MP (Con, Vale of Clwyd), Ben Bradshaw MP (Lab, Exeter), Emma Reynolds MP (Lab, Wolverhampton North East), and Dr Philippa Whitford MP (SNP, Central Ayrshire).
The letter continues, “The ten billion pounds figure can only be reached by adding an extra year to the spending review period, changing the date from which the real terms increase is calculated and disregarding the total health budget”.
NHS Providers Chief Executive, Chris Hopson, described the letter as “clear-sighted analysis”, adding that “the gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the funding it has available is too big and is growing rapidly.”
NHS England has published a progress report, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015 - 2020, One Year On, 2015 -2016, against the delivery of the recommendations made in the Cancer Strategy.
The progress report outlines that over the past year there has been "rapid progress" in establishing the local structures needed to drive improvements in cancer services, facilitating the Independent Taskforce’s vision for stronger devolved leadership.
The progress report also highlights other markers of success made against the recommendations in the Cancer Strategy, including:
- Testing rules for a new 28-day faster diagnosis standard in four areas of the country, awarding funding to support long-term change in diagnosing cancer earlier
- Piloting multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres at six sites, to speed up early diagnosis for patients
- Together with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), launching a new approach to funding cancer drugs through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF)
- Making available, as standard, six genetic diagnostic tests, to ensure each patient can access the best personalised treatment
- Supporting the launch of a new national Be Clear on Cancer campaign for lung cancer symptoms
- Developing the first Quality of Life (QoL) indicator to support NHS England ensure it improves QoL for patients after treatment
- Launching a new Cancer Dashboard, which gathers together all data and intelligence about performance and patient outcomes in one place, enabling Alliances to see where improvements need to be made
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's Chief Executive, said: "Good progress has been made since the NHS cancer strategy was published last year. But it will be critical over the next twelve months to start tackling the severe staff shortages in key cancer services if we are to see real advances in areas such as earlier diagnosis. There's no easy fix but we must start now if we want to make serious improvements to patient care over the next few years".
You can access the progress report online here.