Beating bowel cancer together

Our response to the NHS Long Term Plan

Monday 7 January 2019

Today NHS England published their Long Term Plan, setting out how they will make the NHS fit for the future. They brought together frontline health and care staff, patient groups and other experts as well as individuals and groups representing the opinions and interests of 3.5 million people.

Key points from the plan include:

  • The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will be able to detect more cancers earlier through the implementation of the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT); lowering the screening age in England to 50.
  • From 2020, patients will receive a definitive diagnosis or ruling out of cancer within 28 days of referral from their GP or from the screening programme.
  • Also from 2020, new Rapid Diagnostic Centres will be introduced across the country to provide a ‘one stop shop’ to diagnosing cancers, particularly in patients with vague symptoms.
  • A commitment to invest in new equipment and treatments, including CT and MRI scanners, advanced radiotherapy techniques and immunotherapies.
  • From 2020/21 more extensive genomic testing will be offered to newly diagnosed patients.
  • Patients undergoing treatment will receive a full assessment of their needs, an individual care plan and information and support for their wider health and wellbeing. After treatment, patients will move to a follow-up pathway that suits their needs, and ensures they can get rapid access to clinical support where they are worried that their cancer may have returned. 

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “We welcome the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan including a renewed commitment to improve the bowel cancer screening programme, with the implementation of the new more accurate screening test, the faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and lowering the screening age from 60 to 50. It is also encouraging to see a commitment to genomic testing for all people with cancer. It will help ensure that people with genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome are identified. Additional genomic information will also help us better understand tumour biology in order to develop personalised treatment approaches for cancer patients.

“However, we are disappointed that key workforce challenges are still yet to be addressed as a number of these initiatives rely on increased staff capacity. This is a missed opportunity given that the budget decisions around workforce will be made in Spring, but there is no clear date for the development of a workforce implementation plan.  

“In addition, a long term cancer workforce plan was recommended four years ago in the 2015 cancer strategy and is critical to the success of the NHS Ten Year Plan published today. 

“We must receive a firm date in the very near future for the publication of this workforce strategy, until then vital progress to improving cancer outcomes for patients will be delayed.”

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