Associate Director of Research and Policy, The Health Policy Partnership
The NHS must focus on readiness and data-driven planning across the entire system to prepare cancer services for new treatment approaches.
Readiness and resilience take on particular significance in the context of cancer care, as they help ensure continuity of care and adaptability of services despite external forces and change. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light pre-existing deficits in cancer care, often resulting in unacceptable delays to diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care.
We are now faced with a unique opportunity to reinforce and improve our cancer services. We need to expand and update our infrastructure, improve data collection, support our workforce and ensure the entire health system better reflects the needs of people with cancer. Readiness and resilience are essential requirements of building systems that are prepared for whatever the future brings.
There is a ‘postcode lottery’ in access to care for almost every type of cancer and uptake of innovation can be extremely slow.
Why do we need readiness for innovation in cancer care?
With new and improved screening, diagnostics and treatments emerging all the time, cancer services should be flexible enough to quickly integrate these innovations. We know that this is not always the case across the NHS. There is a ‘postcode lottery’ in access to care for almost every type of cancer and uptake of innovation can be extremely slow. NHS leaders at every level must proactively plan how to integrate new approaches into daily practice, to ensure that they are available to all who need them.
Proactive planning for innovation
As new approaches to treating cancer become increasingly multidisciplinary and collaborative, it is essential that planning takes place across the whole system. When a new treatment emerges, we need to quickly improve awareness and update training for healthcare professionals and ensure patient-facing materials are fit for purpose. We must consider how health facilities can deliver the treatment sustainably and review data collection to ensure it informs practice. Ultimately, we need to consider all factors that influence how, when and why an intervention will be used. It is vital that the NHS is adaptable and ready for change. With a concerted focus on forward planning for readiness across all its policies, the NHS can become a health system that is ready for the future of cancer care.