Diagnosing a patient at an early stage is critical to giving them the best chance of survival. NHS diagnostic services therefore play a central role to make sure more people survive their cancer diagnosis. As 1 in 2 people in Wales will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, it is essential that the diagnostic workforce is sufficient and sustainable to ensure patients are diagnosed early, allowing patients to have more treatment options and ultimately a greater chance of survival. A different approach to diagnosis is needed, whereby more tests are provided to support early diagnosis, meet demand and create a sustainable service. Fundamental to achieving this is having sufficient diagnostics workforce. It is important to note that diagnostic services are not cancer-specific. People present with symptoms that need investigating, irrespective of their referral route. With very few exceptions, everyone who receives a cancer diagnosis will have undergone at least one diagnostic test.
In 2014 the Welsh Government adopted the principle of Prudent Healthcare as a framework for health policy. This aims to configure Welsh health services to meet the needs of patients in an effective and efficient way. Achieving earlier diagnosis is in line with this agenda, as it will allow NHS Wales to deliver care at the right time, make the best use of resources and is cost-effective.
The Welsh Government recently published a Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales. It highlighted the acute workforce shortage and the rising demand in services. Recommendation 5 aims to address this through workforce planning, recruitment and retainment.
The Cancer Delivery Plan recognised shortages in diagnostic staff but did not explain how this would be tackled. This paper sets out Cancer Research UK’s position on the diagnostics workforce in Wales. We set out a summary and recommendations below. Further background and in-depth analysis can be found in the Appendix.