NHS budgets must be reviewed to tackle the cancer backlog

cancer backlog, NHS budgets
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Dee Mathieson, Managing Director at Elekta Ltd, believes that NHS budgets need to directly address the cancer backlog – which remains the second largest cause of death, globally

Cancer is currently the second largest cause of death globally; and is the single largest cause of death in the UK. Cancer will continue to be one of the largest global challenges in the 21st Century, especially for already constrained healthcare systems.

£7.6 billion for the impact of cancer

A report last year suggested that the total economic burden of cancer in the UK is at a staggering £7.6 billion, yet radiation therapy only accounts for a tiny percentage of the total NHS cancer budget. Many of us in the radiation therapy community are frustrated because more is not being done.

We know that up to 60% of people with cancer would benefit from radiotherapy for treatment of localised disease for local control or/and palliation. However, despite the proven benefits of radiotherapy, it accounts for just 5% of the NHS cancer budget, and only 0.025% of the total NHS budget. As someone who has been in the industry for over 40 years, I personally view this as a tragic misallocation of resources that has a real-world impact on thousands of people.

The APPG for Radiotherapy’s recent report, which called “significant investment in hard cash”, is a wake-up call for the UK Government and NHS leadership to accept the scale and urgency of the crisis facing cancer services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can this cancer backlog be resolved?

The cancer treatment backlog is of concern to many of us in the radiation therapy community. A recent parliamentary report points to considerable frustration in the cancer community that more is not being done to prevent thousands of patients dying and presenting with advanced-stage cancers. The report calls on the UK Government and NHS leadership to accept the scale and urgency of the crisis facing cancer services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ensuring that equipment reaches the patient is just the beginning of the solution. NHS budgets must focus on improving radiation therapy technology and advanced techniques. Data is also crucial to helping us tackle the cancer backlog. Data analytics should be leveraged to enable patients, as well as their care teams, to influence and improve outcomes.

At Elekta, our ACCESS 2025 strategy outlines a mission to provide the greatest number of people with cancer the opportunity to gain access to radiation therapy, an integral part of most cancer treatments.

Our focus is on the development of comprehensive digital software transformation programmes, formation of strategic partnerships and doubling AI efforts. At a business level we see a need for increased investment in innovation as the way to provide the best care for patients here in the UK and across the globe.

We can and must do better to improve access to radiotherapy for those who will truly benefit from the therapy. Only through collaboration with policy makers, advisory groups, medical professionals and patients can we move the needle on an upwards trajectory – to a budget that truly reflects the need.

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Senior Vice President, Managing Director
Linac Service, Elekta Ltd
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