A new publication from Cancer Research UK ‘Reverse, Pause or Progress’ reports the findings of research carried out by HSMC to explore the early impact of the health reforms and NHS efficiency savings programme on cancer services in England.

The research team analysed recent trends in cancer waiting times and expenditure, as well as carrying out more than 50 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in the cancer community including policymakers, surgeons and oncologists, clinical nurse specialists, PCT and CCG commissioners and patient representatives.

The findings present a mixed picture. Despite increases in the number of people being referred for suspected cancer and being treated for cancer overall, the performance of services against national standards has held or even marginally increased. However, policymakers, professionals and patients shared a number of concerns about how the reforms and efficiency savings are affecting cancer services and patient care. Key findings included: 

  • A widespread view that the current reforms are of a different degree, nature and scale than previous phases of NHS reform.
  • Concerns about fragmentation in both the commissioning and provision of cancer services.
  • Questions about whether CCGs possess sufficient understanding and expertise in cancer to commission services effectively.
  • Evidence that some services – such as clinical nurse specialists and support and rehabilitation services – are soft targets for spending cuts.
  • Examples of local planning blight, with views that service development in cancer may have been stalled for anywhere between 18 months to three years.

For further information about the report, please contact Hilary Brown on H.I.Brown@bham.ac.uk.