Urgent action is required to tackle the backlog in cancer treatment to prevent a second “devastating” health crisis post-Covid-19, says an open letter — signed by almost 70 MPs, heads of medical colleges and leading oncologists — addressed to prime minister Boris Johnson.
Calling for an immediate action plan, the chairs of all-party parliamentary groups (APPG), former cabinet ministers and a former cancer minister along with medical experts have urged the government to deliver a new “radical” national plan to tackle the cancer backlog or risk “tens of thousands of needless cancer deaths”.
The letter calls on the prime minister to consider the seven recommendations put forward by the cancer community and cross-party MPs in its recent report, which include delivering an action plan, investment in equipment and technology including £325 million in diagnostic infrastructure, and sweeping away bureaucracy that restricts cancer care capacity, among others.
Highlighting that there is a “considerable frustration” in the cancer community, the recommendations also include appointing a minister to lead a radical national recovery plan supported by an independent expert advisory group.
The report also mentions that the UK has the worst cancer survival rates among high-income countries due to persistent underinvestment and bureaucratic blocks.
Outlining the recommendations at an online cancer summit, APPG for Radiotherapy chair Tim Farron MP said the “frightening” cancer backlog is a preventable national crisis “but that can only happen if ministers are willing to accept there is a crisis, deliver vital investment in cancer services, and act quickly”.
Professor Pat Price, a leading oncologist, said that the entire cancer pathway needs urgent restoration throughout the country.
“The prime minister has shown what can be done with the vaccine programme. Now, it’s a national imperative that he works with us to do the same for cancer.”
The open letter comes days after NHS England released the latest set of monthly performance figures on Thursday (June 10) which showed that the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England has exceeded five million for the first time.
Meanwhile, cancer charities said it could take months even at increased capacity to catch up, and warned that the UK is facing the prospect of cancer survival going backwards for the first time in decades.