NHS chemotherapy services are being stretched to the limit by the combination of increased demand and reduced funding, a new report from Roche warns.
The drug company has published The Cancer Capacity Challenge, which argues that new systems to deliver chemotherapy more rapidly and cheaply are needed.
Over 70% of oncology specialist nurses, responding to questions from their colleagues, said lack of capacity to deliver the service was harming care.
The report says that improvements in diagnosis and treatment have increased the life expectancy of patients with cancer – but this in turn has increased the level of demand for services.
According to oncology specialist nurses surveying the views of their colleagues:
• 71% believe patient care is suffering from lack of NHS capacity in chemotherapy
• 76% believe waiting times for chemotherapy are set to increase
• 67% said their day units are fully stretched or over-full.
The incidence of cancer in the UK has increased by 20% in men and 40% in women over the last 30 years, due primarily to the ageing population.
The CCC report recommends that the capacity of chemotherapy services could be increased by treating more patients at home or in primary care.
To facilitate this, Roche argued, there is a need for chemotherapy drugs that can be administered more quickly and easily in a range of settings. The report suggests that Roche may be planning new products in this important area.
Kate Denby, Haematology Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Royal Exeter and Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The steps involved in each patient visit can take as long as seven hours. Patients usually prefer shorter visits to hospital for their chemotherapy treatment, so it’s essential that we are able to find solutions that help improve the patient experience.”