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A Cancer Improvement Plan for NHS Wales, 2023-2026 Publication, 31st January 2023

Find out what the Cancer Improvement Plan means for breast cancer in Wales

For the Welsh translation of this page, please visit this link

Today marks the launch of the A Cancer Improvement Plan for NHS Wales, 2023-2026, which was launched by Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan MS.  

The plan, developed by the Wales Cancer Network, sets out the issues, actions and timeframes for delivering improvements for breast cancer services across Wales.

Breast Cancer Now fed into the development of the plan as part of the Wales Cancer Alliance .

What does the plan mean for patients with secondary breast cancer?

We welcome the plan’s recognition for the need for services to be equally designed for and meet the needs of those with secondary breast cancer. This means initiatives will be introduced, such as:

the introduction of Gateway C across the NHS in Wales to support healthcare professionals effectively and confidently diagnose potential cases of secondary breast cancer, as early as possible. Breast Cancer Now supported to develop Gateway C’s recurrence and secondary breast cancer resources.

capturing accurate data at all stages of secondary breast cancer treatment to ensure data and analysis are available ahead of the audit, which Breast Cancer Now has campaigned over 15 years for. This will help to support the NHS to design and plan services to provide patients with tailored care.

However further detail is needed on how the Wales Cancer Network will extend improve cancer pathways for patients with secondary breast cancer to ensure they receive a timely diagnosis.

How is the plan aiming to improve waiting times?

We’re deeply concerned however by the Welsh government’s lack of commitment to achieving faster diagnosis for breast cancer patients.

The Welsh government’s target in this Plan is for 80% of breast cancer patients to start treatment within 62-days of initial referral by 2026. This is not a progressive target for breast cancer, and risks normalising poor performance and long waiting times.

We’re therefore calling for the Welsh Government and Wales Cancer Network to commit to specific targets and incentives for cancer types, such as breast cancer, that achieve the 80% before 2026.

What will the plan mean for screening?

The Plan also fails to set out actions to improve access or uptake to breast screening, or to reference recent changes to open invite letters for women aged 50-53, despite data revealing that this model is widening health inequalities and adversely affecting uptake. 

We are calling for the Wales Cancer Network to, while implementing the plan, evaluate breast screening invite models to reverse the long-term decline in uptake.

Workforce

Workforce is a key enabler to the successful delivery of many components of the plan, however we know the breast cancer workforce are working tirelessly but are overstretched. Whilst we welcome the commitment within the plan to developing an overarching approach to workforce planning, targeting areas we know need there are challenges such as diagnostics and clinical nurse specialists, we need a clear, fully funded long-term plan right across the cancer workforce, as the 2020 Wales Workforce Strategy includes no reference to cancer.

What’s next?

We’ll be working to make sure the commitments in the plan are both delivered and developed on, so that breast cancer services in Wales are fit for the future.

We’ll be calling on you to help us achieve this. So keep an eye out for future opportunities to get involved.

A big thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences as part of the development of the plan. The key commitments to breast cancer  we’ve secured in demonstrate the impact you’re actions can have. 

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