NHS cancer testing service at ‘tipping point’

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NHS cancer testing at tipping point

A stark warning has been issued this week by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) that NHS cancer testing services are at tipping point, caused by increased demand and a lack of capacity.

Tackling this is essential, according to pathology expert Professor Manual Salto-Tellez, “We need to act now before this situation gets worse. It’s vital that patients are diagnosed at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.”

CRUK says the UK’s cancer survival falls behind that of other European countries and is urging an improvement in early diagnosis through diagnostic services. The importance of this is emphasised by estimates from the charity that cancer diagnoses in the UK will rise from 352,000 (2013) to 500,000 (2035).

According to the report:

  • One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime
  • Well-resourced testing services are crucial to early diagnosis of cancer which in turn is vital to increase survival rates
  • Up to 70% of clinical decisions are based on diagnostic testing
  • Pathology numbers are not growing to meet rising demand for tests

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said;

“Diagnostic services, including pathology, urgently need support and investment to ensure that diagnoses aren’t delayed and patients benefit from the latest treatment. The diagnostic bottleneck will only get worse without action now and this involves addressing staff shortages in imaging, endoscopy and pathology.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said, “Early and fast diagnosis is crucial in improving patient outcomes and experience. Getting pathology test results to patients quickly is a key part of this. That’s why we have invested over £2.5bn on efficient and robust pathology services across the NHS.”

Following the publication of the report Dr Martin Crockard, Head of Molecular R&D at Randox, said;

“As populations continue to age, illnesses like cancer, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease will become more common. We know this is going to have a huge impact on healthcare systems but what is yet to be determined is how they will respond.

“Currently 70% of clinical decisions are using in-vitro diagnostics and that will likely increase – therefore it’s essential that pathology services are fully supported. Better diagnostics enables clinicians to make evidence-based decisions, which delivers improved patient outcomes.”

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