An evaluation by a panel of experts has rated government progress as ‘inadequate’ against commitments made to improve cancer services and pinpointed staff shortages as a recurrent theme undermining achievement. 

It is the first time that the independent Expert Panel, appointed by the Health and Social Care Committee, has given an overall rating of inadequate to government commitments it has evaluated.

The Health and Social Care Committee asked the Expert Panel to evaluate progress against pledges made by Ministers across a range of policy areas - workforce, diagnostics, living well with and beyond cancer, and technology and innovation with CQC-style ratings against five specific commitments. The work of the Expert Panel was conducted alongside an inquiry by the Committee into cancer services with its report to be published next week.

The Expert Panel acknowledges that while some progress has been made in areas such as investment in diagnostics and innovative technologies and treatments, the lack of adequate long-term planning for, and investment in, the cancer workforce undermined progress made and justified the inadequate rating.

Shortages of professional staff across cancer services are undermining achievement

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, Chair of the Expert Panel, said that the evaluation uncovered stark inequalities across cancer types and different regions in the country, not only on diagnosis but in what that will mean for their chances of survival.

She added: “It is clear that cancer services are facing overwhelming pressure. We identified one recurrent theme - shortages of professional staff across cancer services are undermining achievement across every commitment we looked at.

"Overall, we rate government progress to meet its commitments as inadequate, the first time that we have found sufficient concerns in an area to warrant this rating. On individual commitments, we also rate progress to increase the numbers being diagnosed at earlier stages of cancer as inadequate, while progress on faster diagnosis requires improvement.

"Despite a commitment that all those with cancer will have access to personalised care, we found provision patchy without enough staff to give the care that patients have a right to expect."