The Guardian has reported that more than 100,000 patients waited longer than two weeks to see a cancer specialist last year. This is despite them being urgently referred by their GP.
In 2016, 102,697 people did not see a consultant within two weeks of referral, according to analysis by the House of Commons Library. The research was requested by Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health.
The Government target directs that 93 per cent of patients should be seen by a specialist within two weeks, this was achieved in 2015/16 with 94.3 per cent but was down from 95.9 per cent in 2011/12. The analysis found that 25 out of 157 NHS trusts did not meet the 93 per cent target.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "“The NHS treated over 110,000 patients – 82 per cent – within the target of 62 days last year, as the NHS rises to the challenge of an increase in urgent referrals for suspected cancer of over 90 per cent compared to 2009/10”.
The Guardian article can be accessed online here.
The Scottish Government has issued a press release announcing an investment of £300,000 in 2017, as part of £1 million of funding over three years, for the Cancer Medicines Outcome Programme (CMOP). The CMOP is a three year collaboration between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the University of Strathclyde and is designed to investigate the effectiveness of medicines in the "real world".
The project will explore how to maximise the use of data sets to gather information on clinical outcomes such as survival rates, duration of therapy and treatment side effects. The programme also aims to measure the real-life impact of cancer medicines on a patient’s quality of life through the collection of Patient Reported Outcome Measures.
Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, is quoted, saying, "We’ve dramatically increased access to new medicines, particularly for cancer, due to our recent reforms and investment and Scotland is now one of the top nations in the world for accessing new medicines for cancer. Now we want to explore what more can be done. That is why we are taking forward the recommendations from Dr Brian Montgomery’s recent review into access to new medicines, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders across Scotland – including the NHS, third sector and pharmaceutical industry".
The full press release can be accessed online here.
After ten years Professor Sir Bruce Keogh has announced that, at the end of 2017, he will stand down as NHS England’s Medical Director.
Between 2007 and 2003 Professor Keogh served as medical director of the NHS in England, becoming NHS England's first medical director when the body was formed in 2013. He is responsible in his role for promoting clinical leadership, quality and innovation.
Professor Keogh leaves NHS England to take up the role of Chair of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust. The Trust was formed in February 2017, following the merger of Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust.
The search for a successor to Professor Keogh will be run by NHS England, although they have not yet provided details on when it will begin.
Professor Keogh said: “By the end of this year I will have served as national medical director for a decade. It has been and continues to be a huge privilege. But the time must come to make a change and I now have the opportunity to focus my attention on improving services for women and children in my home city. I am really looking forward to it.”
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said: “Bruce has given superb medical leadership to the NHS and has been a great source of wisdom and advice to us all”.
The i newspaper reports that figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that the number of new cases of cancer in England are the highest on record. In 2015 there were 299,923 new cancer diagnoses registered, the equivalent of 822 a day.
Caroline Moye, head of the World Cancer Research Fund, said:
“With around half of cancer cases being attributed to some of the most preventable cancers, it is more important than ever to take cancer prevention seriously. Cancer cases are predicted to continue to rise. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. A third of the most common cancers could be prevented by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and doing more physical activity.”
NHS England has published the latest cancer waiting times for the third quarter of 2016/17.
Sky News reported that targets were missed in the category 'two month (62 day) wait from urgent GP referral to first definitive treatment'. 82.2 per cent of people began their first treatment within 62 days. This falls below the previous quarter result of 82.3 per cent and the specified target of 85 per cent.
It is the third year in a row that the specified target has not been met and means that more than 70,000 people in this time have not received their first treatment within 62 days.
Experts have forecast that over the next 20 years cancer rates will increase nearly six times faster in women than in men. The cause is partly linked to the impact of obesity-related cancers, of which a number only affect women.
The research, published by Cancer Research UK, indicates that ovarian, cervical and oral cancers will rise the most. Rates of cancer for men are predicted to increase at 0.5 per cent while for women they will rise at three per cent.
This rising trend in cancer rates is linked to increasing rates of obesity with two thirds of adults now overweight or obese.
Sarah Toule, head of health information at the World Cancer Research Fund, said "“It is concerning that rates are predicted to rise so sharply in women, especially as so many cancer cases could be prevented,”
“For example, about two in five breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if women maintained a healthy weight, were more physically active and didn’t drink alcohol – that’s around 20,000 fewer cases a year. Other cancers that could be reduced by women having a healthier lifestyle include womb and ovary.”
A study, from University College London and University of Edinburgh, has shown that higher levels of psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, can be associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. However, the findings are observational so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.
Researchers analysed data from 16 studies between 1994 and 2008. This totalled 163,363 men and women, over the age of 16, who were cancer free before the study started. Their psychological distress scores were determined using the general health questionnaire with participants monitored for an average of nine and a half years. During the course of the study 4,353 people died from cancer.
The study's lead author, Dr David Batty, from University College London said the, "findings contribute to the evidence that poor mental health might have some predictive capacity for certain physical diseases but we are a long way off from knowing if these relationships are truly causal."
The BBC has reported on senior doctors' concerns about the number of cancelled cancer operations due to bed shortages this winter.
The vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ian Eardley, told the BBC that the NHS is "pulling out all of the stops" to treat patients "as quickly as possible".
Cancer guidelines indicate that a patient should receive primary treatment within 62 days. The most recent figures for NHS waiting times, in November 2016, show that 83.5 per cent of patients were treated with 62 days, below the 85 per cent target. Mr Eardley indicated that "it's been more difficult to achieve," in the past year.
Mr Eardley's comments echo those of the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Clare Marx, who told the Observer, that since January "a large number of hospitals across the UK are now cancelling cancer surgery. It is heartbreaking for a surgeon to have to explain to a patient who has cancer that their operation has had to be cancelled as there are no beds available.”
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.