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Plans unveiled for more cancer specialists in the NHS

Plans have been unveiled for the NHS to employ more cancer specialists to help speed up diagnosis and deliver quicker treatment for patients.

The initiative is part of Health Education England’s new Cancer Workforce Plan which sets out how it will make sure the NHS has enough staff with the right skills to deliver improvements for people affected by cancer over the next three years. It will see specialists trained and deployed in areas where shortages have been identified.

More radiographers and clinical nurse specialists

A key focus is falling on recruiting additional radiographers, clinical nurse specialists and endoscopists.

The announcement includes investment in: 200 additional clinical endoscopists to increase diagnostic capacity and free up the time of consultants to spend more time on complex cases; and 300 reporting radiographers by 2021 to support an increase in the capacity for earlier diagnosis.

Further moves include retention initiatives to produce an additional 746 consultants working in cancer by 2021; expansion of Cancer Nurse Specialists to develop consistent competencies for this key role and a clear route into training; and supporting the continued development of cancer staff skills through a national dedicated Skills Fund.

Cancer treatment uses specialists across the NHS, from surgeons to those in allied health jobs.

Quicker diagnosis and treatment

The Department of Health says the plan is part of a campaign to make sure patients are diagnosed quickly and get better access to innovative treatments that can improve survival rates.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "The NHS has made amazing progress in diagnosing and treating cancer - incredible that 7,000 people are alive today who would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as in 2010. We want to save more lives and to do that we need more specialists who can investigate and diagnose cancer quickly. These extra specialists will go a long way to help the NHS save an extra 30,000 lives by 2020."

Demand for cancer treatments in the UK is growing. Around 357,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer in 2014 but by 2022, it is projected that there will be around 422,000 new cases.

Workforce at the centre of care

HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: “The plan sets out a pragmatic approach to ensure we have sufficient staff with the right skills to embed new tests and treatments, as well as initiatives to retain staff who already deliver much needed care and support to cancer patients and their families up and down the country. Rightly so, it places workforce at the centre of transforming cancer care.
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