Beating bowel cancer together

Our priorities for bowel cancer over the next ten years

NHS England is currently developing a new 10 Year Plan setting out their ambitions for improvement over the next decade. This plan will include a cancer strategy outlining how improvements can be made across prevention, early diagnosis and treatment and care. With the plan expected to be published in November, we were asked to set-out priorities for bowel cancer.

Our top three priorities for bowel cancer

In order to improve bowel cancer outcomes and care over the next ten years, we’re calling on these top three priorities to be addressed in the NHS 10 Year Plan:

1. Optimal Bowel Cancer Screening Programme

The NHS must take significant proactive steps to ensure people are diagnosed at earlier stages of the disease when it is more treatable and the chance of survival is high. The best way to achieve this is through the bowel cancer screening programme. The new, more accurate faecal immunochemical test (FIT) must be used from the age of 50 - 74 every two years, with a plan to increase sensitivity levels to detect more cancers.

2. Expanding workforce capacity

The current workforce shortage represents the single biggest barrier to delivering world-class cancer care for bowel cancer patients and implementing an optimal bowel cancer screening programme. Demand for endoscopy tests is rising at a rapid rate, putting endoscopy and pathology services under unprecedented pressure because there simply aren’t enough staff to deal with this demand. The NHS 10 Year Plan must therefore include a fully funded action plan to tackle issues around workforce, with clear and comprehensive recommendations that address both current workforce shortages and allow for future growth.

3. Personalised medicine and access to innovative treatments

In order to improve outcomes for bowel cancer, it is vital that patients and clinicians have access to the latest and most effective treatment options. By understanding the genetic make-up of a patient’s tumour at an early stage, healthcare professionals can better target treatments that are more likely to work, as opposed to using generic treatments that may or may not work. It is therefore vital that all patients are tested for a range of genetic biomarkers. In addition, many new treatments, such as personalised immunotherapy drugs, are currently not being approved for use on the NHS because of cost and a reform to the methodology of appraisal processes for treatments is required.

Read our full response to NHS England

Beyond our top three priorities, our full response covers a number of other key areas across prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment, care and support that must see improvements over the next ten years.

Who helped to inform our response?

In order to provide a robust, evidence-based submission, we wanted to hear from our medical, scientific, patient and supporter communities on their priorities and personal experiences of the bowel cancer pathway. Our patient survey received nearly a thousand responses and identified a number of gaps in care and support for bowel cancer. Findings of this survey can be found in our full response.

A big thank you to all of our wonderful supporters for your feedback!

How can you continue to shape the NHS 10 Year Plan?

As part of our influencing work on the NHS 10 Year Plan, we’ve also written an open letter to the Government to ensure expanding workforce capacity, one of our top three priorities, is fully addressed. We’re calling on the Chancellor and the Department of Health and Social Care to agree to a fully funded endoscopy action plan to tackle staff shortages in diagnostic services for bowel cancer.

Help us take action today by signing our open letter to the Government.

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