Beating bowel cancer together

Long-awaited NHS People Plan falls short of expectations

Today, NHS England and Improvement have published their long-awaited workforce plan, ‘We are the NHS: People Plan 2020/21 action for us all’.

The plan sets out what NHS staff can expect from their leaders and from each other and builds on the drive shown by the NHS to the COVID-19 pandemic and the interim NHS People Plan, produced in June 2019. It outlines actions that NHS England and NHS Improvement and Health Education England will take over the remainder of 2020/21 and focuses on:

  • Looking after NHS people – with quality health and wellbeing support for everyone
  • Belonging in the NHS – with a particular focus on tackling the discrimination that some staff face
  • New ways of working and delivering care – making effective use of the full range of our people’s skills and experience
  • Growing for the future – how the NHS recruits and retains staff, and welcomes back colleagues who want to return

We expected the final report to include a fully funded five-year plan carrying forward and building on the interim recommendations to address challenges to the NHS workforce, including staff shortages in services that diagnose cancer.  

Instead, today’s publication focuses on workplace culture and ways of working, and provides barely any detail on expanding and developing future cancer workforce. The report includes reference to Health Education England (HEE) plans to train 400 clinical endoscopists and 450 reporting radiographers in 2021. Training grants are being offered for 350 nurses to become cancer nurse specialists and chemotherapy nurses, training 58 biomedical scientists, developing an advanced clinical practice qualification in oncology, and extending cancer support-worker training.
Additionally, the plan states that in 2020/21, HEE is investing in an extra 250 foundation year 2 posts, to enable the doctors filling them to grow the pipeline into psychiatry, general practice and other priority areas – notably cancer, including clinical radiology, oncology and histopathology.

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK says: “We are extremely disappointed to see the NHS People Plan still fails to properly address the current cancer workforce capacity crisis. Services to diagnose bowel cancer, including endoscopy and pathology, are at breaking point.

A final People Plan was expected last year to provide urgent solutions to NHS staff shortages. With COVID-19 putting unprecedented pressure on the already struggling cancer workforce, the NHS must immediately publish a fully funded final People Plan, to support ambitions to improve cancer outcomes.”

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