What the Autumn Budget means for bowel cancer
On Monday 29 October the Chancellor set out in the Budget how much money will be spent on health services in England in the coming years. In this budget he confirmed increased funding for NHS England, with pots of money allocated to specific services, for example mental health. We're pleased to see that the NHS will receive the promised funding increase of £20bn per year by 2023/24. But a vital opportunity was missed to address staff shortages in the NHS and many questions still remain on how the increased funding will be spent.
What did we call for in the budget?
In September we launched our Capacity Crisis campaign calling for funding to be allocated to tackle NHS staff shortages in services that diagnose bowel cancer and over 7,000 of you joined us. Patients, NHS staff, cross party MPs and leading professional bodies came together to ask the Chancellor and the Health Secretary to work together to develop a fully funded action plan to tackle the growing workforce crisis.
We’ve been clear that the ambitions that will be set out in the forthcoming NHS 10 Year Plan will not be realised without additional staff. In fact, the Prime Minister’s commitment to improve early diagnosis of bowel cancer and overall survival will be undermined without additional investment to recruit and train staff.
A missed opportunity
The budget guaranteed the much-needed extra £20bn for the NHS. This is positive but it doesn't go far enough. We’re concerned that this money will not be sufficient to enable NHS England to meet the bold ambitions set out for cancer by the Government. In addition, there are some important areas of spending that fall outside the money given to NHS England. This includes Health Education England’s budget which has previously been cut in order to fund increases in NHS England’s budget.
Health Education England is responsible for ensuring that the NHS workforce has the right numbers of people and skills, at the right time and place and so are vital to tackling staff shortages. This was a missed opportunity to confront a growing problem that must now be addressed as part of the NHS 10 year plan.
Demand for diagnostic tests has been rapidly increasing over recent years, in part due to an ageing population. This demand will be intensified as the NHS begins to deliver the Prime Minister’s commitment for an optimal bowel screening programme. This includes lowering the bowel cancer screening age from 60 to 50 and introducing the potentially more accurate and easier to use Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). Without extra staff to meet the rise in demand, these life-saving initiatives will be a pipedream.
What next for the campaign?
The NHS 10 Year Plan, due to be published in November, is a critical opportunity to respond to questions not answered in the budget. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, must finally get to grips with tackling this problem and use his department’s budget to address the workforce capacity crisis as part of the eagerly awaited NHS 10 Year Plan.
Over the next month we’ll be working to make sure this problem is not ignored in the plan. To keep up to date on the campaign, sign up to become a campaign supporter. By joining us you’ll be one of the first to know what happens next and how you can get involved in helping to improve early diagnosis of bowel cancer.