Even a lay person knows the mantra “early detection” is critical when it comes to cancer treatment and survival. That raises the question of why isn’t any NHS cancer diagnosis followed immediately, that very day, with the start of therapy when we know that at some unknown point in the development of every cancer it will metastasize (spread throughout the body) and go from a treatable chronic condition to a fatal disease?

NHS cancer treatment delays

A recent report from Macmillan Cancer Support says 64% of recently diagnosed cancer patients in England had fear, depression, or anxiety because of the delays in treatment by the NHS.

Of the 186 patients surveyed over the past two years, 13% reported a decline in general health during the wait and 8% said their cancer symptoms became worse. NHS data showed that between December 2015 and November 2016, 24,925 patients waited more than 60 days for their treatment to begin.

This is due, in large part, by the long delays in hospital admissions which is, in turned, caused by an overload of patients, many of which should not be going to hospitals but should be supported in their homes.

More NHS problems

However, while cancer is probably the most critical problem, it is far from the only shortfall in NHS patient care all of which also impact the ability to react quickly to a cancer diagnosis.

Former NHS head, Lord Nigel Crisp recently wrote a report published in Bigissue, outlining his proposals for fixing the NHS. He pointed out that the biggest problem with the NHS is that it is still geared to treat the needs of a population in the 60’s and 70’s where accidents were a major cause of hospital visits but this does not address today’s needs which are more related to conditions found mostly in the growing older population.

Diabetes, dementia and other age-related diseases are much more important today, and the NHS needs to adapt to this change by increasing home support.

Lord Crisp told reporters what in some locations this is being addressed very well, but in others, the NHS is failing badly. ”The truth is that we have got the wrong model for service delivery.

We need a big increase in,” in community service and nursing homes to treat people with long-term medical conditions rather than focusing almost entirely on critical needs. This failure means too many people end up in the hospital which isn’t necessary, increasing the pressure on them. He also points out that technology lets many more people be monitored in their homes (telemedicine).

(NOTE: your reporter experienced a two-week delay between diagnosis of malignant melanoma (a serious skin cancer) and excision of the cancer in the US. That was a relatively minor operation involving a local painkiller, two minutes surgery (including stitches, and a band-aid. Fortunately I’m now a 9-year cancer survivor, but perhaps one more day could have changed my prognosis. At the time there was no chemotherapy for MM.)