Government making ‘inadequate’ progress against commitments on cancer services

5 May 2022

An expert panel has concluded the UK Government’s overall progress in achieving five key commitments on cancer services is ‘inadequate’. Set up by the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, the independent panel piloted a new evaluation system, giving Care Quality Commission-style ratings on the government’s performance in meeting policy commitments on cancer services in England. This is the first time it has given an overall rating of ‘inadequate’ to Government commitments. 

The report, entitled ‘Evaluation of the Government’s commitments in the area of cancer services in England’, examined five key commitments across a range of policy areas: workforce; diagnostics; living well with and beyond cancer; and technology and innovation. The ‘inadequate’ rating was given because, while some progress has been made in areas such as investment in diagnostics and innovative technologies and treatments, the lack of adequate long-term planning and investment in the cancer workforce undermined the progress made.

The report was a particularly scathing when considering the governments record on both expanding the workforce in order to meet capacity, and on encouraging people to living well with and beyond cancer.

In terms of the challenges to workforce, the expert committee found that although the workforce growth ambition target was met in terms of absolute numbers of postholders, the target was inadequate with the general feeling that ‘staff are under considerable pressure’.  The report concluded that it was clear that the workforce targets set by the Government fell woefully short of the demand on the ground, with the lack of focus on providing adequate numbers of specialist nurses being a particular point of criticism.

In delivering the governments promise that ‘every person diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised care’ the findings of the panel were also that the government’s planning and actions were inadequate. The government had invested no new funding into this goal and there was no clarity in government about what personalised care interventions were and how they should be measured.

The panel’s Chair, Professor Dame Jane Dacre, said: “It is clear that cancer services are facing overwhelming pressure. We identified one recurrent theme - shortages of professional staff across cancer services are undermining achievement across every commitment we looked at’.

The full report is available to read here