Beating bowel cancer together

Cancer care in Wales is at risk without a new cancer strategy

Monday 22 March 2021

Cancer services in Wales could struggle to recover after the coronavirus pandemic, leading to poorer care and outcomes for patients, unless a new strategy is developed by the Welsh Government, a coalition of cancer charities – including Bowel Cancer UK – warns today.

Wales could soon be the only UK nation without a cancer strategy, with the country's Government opting to publish a brief quality statement today instead of replacing its detailed cancer plan, which came to an end in December. Bowel Cancer UK has come together with 19 other leading cancer charities as part of the Wales Cancer Alliance, to give stark and repeated warnings that the statement does not go far enough.

At a time when cancer services are under more pressure than ever due to the pandemic, the Alliance is concerned people in Wales will have poorer and less personalised cancer care without a comprehensive cancer strategy.

Until the end of 2020, Wales had a Cancer Delivery Plan which had ambitions for cancer care outcomes that matched the best in Europe. The strategy, which was 21 pages, has been replaced by a quality statement running at just three pages long.

The Wales Cancer Alliance does not believe this is an acceptable response to the current crisis in cancer care, nor does it point to a sufficiently bold ambition for cancer services in Wales. The country already performed poorer on cancer compared to similar countries before the pandemic.

Claire Donaghy, Head of External Affairs (Devolved Nations) at Bowel Cancer UK, says: "We are deeply concerned that the Welsh Government's brief quality statement does not go far enough to address the cancer crisis the country is currently facing, and the profound and lasting impact this will have on bowel cancer patients.

"In December, the Welsh Government scaled back cancer diagnostic services and treatment as a result of COVID-19, which they acknowledged could lead to increased waiting times, missed diagnoses, significant risk of harm and potentially worse outcomes for cancer patients.

"More than 2,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in Wales, and it’s the second biggest cancer killer in the country. The Welsh Government must publish an ambitious cancer strategy to improve cancer services to prevent cancer patients becoming the forgotten casualties of the pandemic, and ultimately save lives."

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