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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

10-point plan for a UK Cancer Strategy

A policy review paper calls for a UK Cancer Strategy to address gaps left by the integration of the National Cancer Control Plan into a ‘Major Conditions Strategy’ in England and Wales, and the closure of the National Cancer Research Institute, which authors call a major misstep at a time when the NHS is facing multiple challenges.


Highlighting poor UK performance in cancer care compared with other countries (all UK nations in the bottom half of cancer league tables), and the expectation that by 2040 the UK will have to care for 30% more new cancer patients annually, authors have created their own 10-point plan as a blueprint for a new cancer strategy that will tackle record cancer treatment waiting times, workforce shortages, and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Fiona Walter, co-author on the plan, said: ‘Cancer survival rates in the UK are disappointingly poor compared with other countries, and there is evidence of widening patient inequalities. We urgently need this dedicated national cancer plan to improve patient care by delivering equitable, affordable, research-informed cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment.’

The ten-point plan to improve cancer care includes recommendations to:

  1. Create and properly resource a dedicated UK-wide National Cancer Control Plan through a more integrated devolved government consultation, that are patient centred; empower clinical frontline staff; and deliver equitable, affordable, data-informed, research-active cancer control.
  2. Re-establish a strengthened and more comprehensive National Cancer Research Institute and broaden cancer research strategic agenda and funding.
  3. Deliver on National Health Service (NHS) Long Term Workforce Plan with fair pay and better working environments coupled with a rethink on future cancer workforce skill sets.
  4. Substantially strengthen primary care and deliver on the target of 75% of cases diagnosed at stage 1 or stage 2 by 2028 through enhanced screening.
  5. Properly fund a UK-wide evidence-driven prevention programme particularly for tobacco control, alcohol, and obesity.
  6. Integrate hospice care within the NHS and increase support for psychosocial and survivorship, keeping patients and those living with cancer out of hospitals.
  7. Address domain specific and vulnerable population solutions in national planning such as in radiotherapy, surgery, pathology, imaging, systemic therapies, and in children and young adults.
  8. Develop an integrated pan-UK data and digital infrastructure that delivers intelligence-driven service design, performance assessment, and quality improvement. This should be combined with cancer targets that focus on delivery of the main 62-day treatment target and reflect the totality of the system; time to diagnosis, time to treatment, quality metrics.
  9. Deliver a sustainable plan for equipment and infrastructure across the UK to assist the work force and help increase their productivity and ensure patients with cancer can get access to appropriate technologies and that proven innovations are equitably implemented through a value-based approach.
  10. Reassess governance, structure, and advice to government and NHS England for cancer. Reinstate the role of an independent National Cancer Director and office of support with authority to drive through changes and liaise between the government and the NHS to provide robust independent oversight.

Ajay Aggarwal, Ananya Choudhury, Nicola Fearnhead, Pam Kearns, Anna Kirby, Mark Lawler, Sarah Quinlan, Carlo Palmieri, Tom Roques, Richard Simcock, Fiona M Walter, Pat Price, Richard Sullivan. The future of cancer care in the UK—time for a radical and sustainable National Cancer Plan. Lancet Oncol 2023 Published Online November 14, 2023 S1470-2045(23)00511-9




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