Bowel Cancer UK has handed in an open letter to the to the UK government calling for a fully funded action plan to tackle NHS staff shortages in diagnostic services for bowel cancer – England’s second biggest cancer killer. The letter comes ahead of the Government spending review and calls on the Chancellor and Health Secretary to invest in more NHS staff to cope with the rising demand for bowel cancer tests. Demand for colonoscopies has doubled since 2008, but this has not been matched with additional trained workforce by the Government, leading to a capacity crisis.
Bowel Cancer UK claims over 7,000 people have signed the letter, including patients, NHS staff and Members of Parliament, as well as leading professional bodies like The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland, British Society of Gastroenterology and the Joint Advisory Group on gastrointestinal endoscopy. It requests a comprehensive plan setting out clear recommendations to tackle workforce shortages and allow for future growth.
Recent figures published by NHS England show that almost 5,000 patients (4,491) in England during August 2018 waited more than six weeks for a test that could diagnose bowel cancer, a clear red flag to the Government that NHS staff are struggling to cope. So far in 2018, every month on average a quarter of NHS hospitals in England (28%), were in breach of waiting times. Under NHS rules patients should wait no more than six weeks for a colonoscopy test that can detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.
“We’re delighted over 7,000 people have come together to back our call for a fully funded action plan,” said Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK. “We’ve been campaigning on this issue for some time – addressing workforce issues must happen now. With the new NHS 10 Year Plan expected to be published later this year, the £20bn NHS funding announcement and the autumn budget, now is the time to ensure challenges to workforce are prioritised. We cannot continue to paper over the cracks with short-term initiatives. We need a long-term solution to finally deal with this crisis in diagnostic services for bowel cancer. We hope both the Chancellor and the Health Secretary listen to the thousands of people who have signed our open letter to finally address this issue.”
Please click here to read the letter in full