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NHS understaffed and underequipped to tackle cancer

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There are nearly 50,000 vacancies in the NHS There are nearly 50,000 vacancies in the NHS

Three quarters of the UK public think the NHS is understaffed and underequipped to tackle cancer, a new poll carried out by YouGov for Cancer Research UK has revealed.

The Cancer Awareness Measure, which surveyed almost 2500 people in February 2022, found that 75% of people didn’t think the NHS was sufficiently equipped to see, test and treat everyone that needed it. 76% of respondents who have had cancers, and 80% of people who’ve known someone affected by cancer also said they think the NHS doesn’t have the resources needed to meet the demand.

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NHS England aims to diagnose and start treatment for 85% of cancer patients within 62 days of an urgent referral from their GP. However, this target has been missed since 2015, and as of March 2022 it was well below target at just 67.4%, with pressure on diagnostic services being a key reason for missed targets.

‘Without enough nurses, cancer patients will not get the care and support they need,’ said RCN Chair of Council and cancer nurse specialist Carol Popplestone.

‘A diagnosis is devastating, not only for the patients but their loved ones too. Nurses are there every step of the way, helping patients understand their treatment options and give clinical care. The public sees clearly how staff shortages are affecting the care of cancer patients. The UK government must urgently acknowledge this and tackle the shortage in specialist cancer nurses, along with the tens of thousands of vacancies across health and care.’

According to the British Medical Associations’ staffing report, the medical workforce in England is currently short of approximately 49,000 full-time equivalent doctors.

In addition, the results of a recent NHS Staff Survey, less than a third of respondents working in the NHS felt that there are currently enough staff in their organisations for them to do their jobs properly. At 27.2%, this result has declined by 11 percentage points over the last year.

‘I would argue NHS staff are motivated by wanting to help people, but right now, there simply isn’t the time for them to develop those invaluable patient relationships,’ said Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Clinician.

‘Although exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of understaffing have been years in the making. For instance, according to a BMA report, the UK is short of 49,000 doctors relative to the average number of doctors per head of the population in OECD countries.’

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