The Long Term Plan for the NHS in England has today (7 January 2019) been published by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.

The plan sets the ambition and priorities for the health service over the next ten years, and has been matched with an increase of up to £20.5 billion for the NHS by 2023/24.

For cancer patients and those at risk, the NHS Long Term Plan includes commitments to: 

  • review the breast screening service to look at how to increase screening uptake and introduce new technologies 
  • the use of personalised and risk stratified screening for the earlier diagnosis of cancers
  • access to the right expertise and support, for all patients, including those with secondary cancers, including a Clinical Nurse Specialist or other support worker
  • potentially offering patients more personalised treatment options

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

We’re encouraged by the promise of the NHS Long Term Plan to harness research progress to improve cancer outcomes, and now await the detail of how this will be turned into action. But to ensure these promises can be delivered, it’s absolutely essential that they are now matched by a detailed and fully-funded cancer workforce plan.

Today’s Long Term Plan outlines tangible steps that could make a huge difference to the diagnosis, treatment and care of breast cancer patients. In particular, the much-needed commitments to increase the uptake of breast screening and realise the potential of more personalised screening could now help prevent thousand more deaths from breast cancer in the future.

We’re also delighted to see some recognition of the needs of patients living with incurable metastatic breast cancer and a commitment to meet them through access to dedicated Clinical Nurse Specialists or support workers for all. We need to do so much more on metastatic breast cancer, and, while it’s encouraging the Government has listened to this patient group, the delivery of this promise now represents a critical first step to improving their quality of life.

While some key questions remain, this plan offers hope for a truly world-class NHS at a time of unprecedented challenge. But to ensure we now take these opportunities, we must also invest in the NHS’s backbone: its dedicated, passionate and expert workforce. To deliver these aims to detect breast cancer earlier, we simply have to see sustained investment in the breast imaging and diagnostic workforce, which is already at crisis point.

As the plan now moves from ambition to action, we look forward to working with NHS England, the Government and Cancer Alliances to do all we can to prevent more breast cancers, detect the disease earlier and treat it more effectively at every stage.