Wilmslow Health Centre’s Dr Amar Ahmed recently co-authored an essay that was published in The Lancet this morning.

Cancer crisis at ‘watershed moment’ as cancer pathway is ‘overwhelmed’ and upward trend in excess cancer deaths ‘likely to continue’ – The Lancet Oncology

In a paper published in The Lancet Oncology dated 14 December 2022 leading oncologists and doctors have set out the desperate and urgent need for action to tackle the crisis engulfing UK cancer care services urging Ministers to tackle the situation with same level of focus and urgency as was deployed to roll out the COVID vaccine.  They warn of the danger of the  Department of Health and Social Care and NHS not accepting ‘the true scale of the problem’ and set out their case that this is a defining ‘watershed moment’ for cancer care as the November NHS data confirmed that ‘in the last 12 months, 69,000 patients in the UK have waited longer than the recommended 62-day wait from suspected cancer referral to start of treatment (twice as many than in 2017-2018).’

The leading clinicians express their view that while the whole cancer pathway ‘seems overwhelmed’, some areas such as radiotherapy are now ‘critically threatened’ with collapse.  The paper quotes European research which suggests a 17% increase in UK cancer deaths due to delays in diagnosis and treatment and cites statistics showing ‘excess cancer deaths since March 2020 are already 8815 with 3327 in the last six months, and this trend is likely to continue’.

The paper sets out the solutions presented by frontline clinicians that can prevent excess deaths if the Government and NHS take action. It states that: “Currently some front-line staff are exhausted and too afraid to speak out, never mind feel part of the solution” and warns that “inefficient practices have emerged; secretarial support suspended so consultants are less productive than they should be, obsolete IT is slowing every day work, workflow tools not being purchased and antiquated equipment such as radiotherapy machines so out of date they take twice as long as modern machines to treat patients less well than is possible.”

Founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign and leading oncologist, Professor Pat Price said:

“This is a watershed moment for UK cancer services – the biggest cancer crisis ever – we can’t accept the normalization of record-breaking cancer treatment waiting times. Clinicians know it doesn’t need to be this way and that we don’t need new groundbreaking research to avert disaster. We need a radical new plan, investment in capacity solutions in treatments like radiotherapy, and the political will to treat more patients on time. If ever there was a time for us to deliver much needed investment into cancer treatment it is now.”

Professor Gordon Wishart, former cancer surgeon and Chief Medical Officer of Check4Cancer said:

“The COVID-induced cancer backlog is one of the deadliest backlogs and has served to widen the cracks in our cancer services. Readers will be shocked to learn that even before the pandemic, the UK was near the bottom of the cancer survival league tables. Now we face a deadly cancer timebomb of treatment delays that get worse every month because we don’t have a sufficiently ambitious plan from policymakers. I urge the Government to work with us.”

Dr Amar Ahmed, General Practitioner based at Wilmslow Health Centre said:

“It’s very clear that Britain is in the midst of a growing cancer emergency. Just as there was a concerted national effort to tackle the COVID Pandemic, we need a similar national drive to address the declining state of cancer diagnosis and treatment in the UK. Freeing up frontline clinicians from needless box-ticking NHS bureaucracy will go some way to improve the NHS capacity to tackle this emergency.”

The full article can be found here

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