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19.03.19

NHS cancer services under ‘immense strain’ due to ‘dire’ staffing shortages

A shortage of cancer specialists is hurting patients’ chances of receiving treatments and putting them at risk, according to the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).

An annual study from the college cancer centres were reporting “dire” staffing levels with more than half of vacant posts empty for more than a year.

According to the 62 major UK cancer centres involved in the report, 7.5% of consultant posts were vacant, and the RCR said the current levels were not sustainable – with services only being maintained by large amounts of overtime.

The report warned that cutting-edge cancer therapies such as proton beam therapy may not be delivered due to the shortages.

The figures come as waiting times for cancer treatment are longer than ever, and for the first time all three of the core cancer standards have been missed.

The RCR’s report revealed that one in six cancer centres operate with fewer consultants than five years ago, and vacancies are now double than they were previously in 2013.

It said that trainee numbers would need to at least double to close the gap between supply and demand.

Tom Roques, the RCR’s medical director of professional practice for clinical oncology and lead author of the workforce report, said: “Clinical oncologists are vital to the rollout of these new therapies but we do not have enough of them and our workforce projections are increasingly bleak, which begs the question, what kind of service will we be able to provide for our patients in future?

“Today’s RCR workforce figures and forecasts show our cancer hospitals under immense strain – some centres have seen a reduction or stall in consultant numbers and many are desperate but failing to recruit, predominantly because we do not have enough consultants in training.

“We predict that by 2023 the workforce will be more than 20% short-staffed, and we are really concerned that it is people with cancer who will suffer, with less clinical oncologists’ expert time to go around.”

 

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