How will the NHS tackle the cancer backlog?

New analysis from the House of Commons Library reveals half a million people with suspected cancer will be waiting longer than the usual two-week period to see an oncologist this year.

The analysis predicts over 75,000 people with confirmed cancer cases will to not be able to start treatment within the current guidelines of 31 or 62 days.

These numbers undeniably create uncertainty and anxiety in patients awaiting a diagnosis. As a result, multiple cancer charities are putting pressure on the government and helping to support worried patients and their families.

Our goal at RMDM is to integrate our PanTum Detect technology in the primary care settings as the first point of information to help detect cancer earlier and put worried minds at ease.

The Commons library analysis shows that between April and November last year 290,428 people with suspected cancer symptoms did not see a specialist within 14 days after an urgent referral from their GP.

The most highly suspected types of cancer included:

• 91,896 people with possible breast cancer

• 76,307 with possible skin cancer

• 47,936 with possible lower gastrointestinal cancer

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer support added,

“These figures show the huge challenge the NHS faces in clearing the cancer backlog.   This is a time of real worry and anxiety for people waiting for a cancer diagnosis, with any delay creating the risk of a worse prognosis”

New NHS Elective Recovery Plan

Ministers have promised a long over-due plan to tackle the backlog. It was under discussion with the NHS for weeks to see how quickly hospitals can get back to pre-covid standards.

The Department of Health and Social Care delayed their proposed plans due to debate between NHS England and the government over the imposed lofty targets for clearing the backlog. Finally, on February 8th, the NHS published their “new elective care recovery plan”.

The delivery plan hopes to “give patients greater control over their own health and offer a greater choice of where to get care if they are waiting too long for treatment.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid explained the key deliverables required of the NHS:

• Eliminating waits of longer than a year for elective care by March 2025.

• By July 2022, no one will wait longer than two years for elective treatment.

• The NHS will aim to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023.

• Three-quarters of patients who have been urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer will be diagnosed, or have cancer ruled out within 28 days.

• Returning the number of people waiting more than 62 days from an urgent referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.

• Deliver around 30% more elective activity by 2024/25 than before the pandemic, after accounting for the impact of an improved care offer.

The plan also acknowledges that the NHS needs higher numbers of staff. To successfully deliver the promises made in the plan, they will not only be hiring more staff but providing training opportunities for current staff and the ability to work flexibly and remotely.

The NHS will continue to expand their diagnostic capacity by opening more diagnostic centres in accessible and convenient spaces. This roll-out will hope to allow 95% of patients to receive a test with 6 weeks of a GP’s referral.

At RMDM, we aim to have our early detection blood test for cancer, PanTum Detect, available at labs and clinics in England to help people gain quicker access to early detection.

If you would like to partner with RMDM or find out more about PanTum Detect, please get in touch via our contact form.