Find out what the NHS Long Term Plan includes, how it affects people with breast cancer, and how you can get involved with campaigning for further action.
What is the NHS Long Term Plan?
In June 2018, the Government announced an additional £20.5 billion to be spent on the NHS in England over the next five years. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out how this money will be spent to improve services for patients and ensure the health service can meet the needs of the future.
Breast Cancer Care submitted our response to the NHS Long Term Plan consultation last autumn. We wanted to see a commitment to ensure access to tailored follow-up support after hospital treatment for primary breast cancer and investment to recruit additional dedicated secondary breast cancer specialist nurses. Importantly, we also pushed for it to include a clear plan to tackle the ongoing crisis in the cancer workforce.
The NHS Long Term Plan was published last week. If delivered in full, we believe it has the potential to improve the lives of people affected by breast cancer. We were pleased to see a strong focus on cancer along with commitments to make sure every person diagnosed with cancer receives more personalised care and tailored follow-up support.
What does the Long Term Plan include?
The Long Term Plan includes commitments across diagnosis, treatment, support and care:
- Review the breast screening service to look at how to increase screening uptake and introduce new technologies.
- Safer and more precise treatments including advanced radiotherapy techniques and immunotherapies. As part of this, there will be a £130 million upgrade of radiotherapy machines across England.
- By 2021, offering patients diagnosed with cancer access to personalised care, including a needs assessment, care plan and health and wellbeing support and information.
- Access to the right expertise and support, for all patients, including those with secondary cancers, including a Clinical Nurse Specialist or other support worker.
- In 2019, all breast cancer patients will have access to a follow-up pathway that suits their needs and to clinical support where they are worried their cancer may have returned.
What happens now?
The promised changes are impossible to deliver without first tackling the ongoing workforce crisis.
While the Plan certainly offers hope for future improvements in cancer care, we believe the commitments do not go far enough.
Cancer workforce challenges were not addressed in the Plan which is worrying as many of the promised improvements are dependent on having the right staff in place.
Instead it includes a commitment to publish a Workforce Implementation Plan later in 2019. This must be published as soon as possible and include the necessary funding to tackle issues such as the lack of specialist nurses available to support people with secondary breast cancer.
What further action is needed?
We need to see further action from Government to ensure that:
- Secondary breast cancer patients have access to a Secondary Support Package – which includes support from a dedicated Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), with appropriate, skills, knowledge and experience of the disease, and specific time and resource to support them.
- Support doesn’t end when treatment does. We want all people to receive tailored support after treatment for primary breast cancer – not just for those who are worried their cancer has returned.
- Funding for workforce training and education is made available to recruit and train more staff – in particular secondary breast cancer Clinical Nurse Specialists. The promised changes are impossible to deliver without first tackling the ongoing workforce crisis.
The job is not done. We will be working with the Government, NHS and the wider health sector to make sure not only that the promises in the Plan are turned into reality, but that they go further so that we truly achieve world class cancer services.
Campaign with us
If you would like to be a part of this, then why not join our Campaigns Network. By getting involved you can help us take action to ensure everyone affected by breast cancer receives the best care possible.
Join our Campaigns Network and find out how you can help us secure better care for people affected by breast cancer.