Today, I attended an event organised by Cancer Research UK, marking World Cancer Day 2020. Cancer impacts so many lives directly and indirectly, and all of us will have been touched by cancer in some way or another. Events like this are an important way to realise how we all have a part to play to beat the disease.
I was shocked to learn that in NHS Calderdale CCG, only 49.3% of cancers are diagnosed early. Additionally, 21.9% of patients are diagnosed with cancer through an emergency route, which is above the national average. Without early diagnosis, people’s chances of defeating cancer are smaller. Every year, within our CCG there are around 1,100 cancer cases and 530 deaths due to cancer.
Our low rate of early diagnosis is part of a much wider national issue. Right now, across the UK more than 1 in 10 NHS diagnostic posts are unfilled, meaning that there simply are not enough staff to find the early diagnoses that are so vital in saving lives.
We must change this. I am calling on the Government to be bold and invest so there is sufficient funding for Health Education England to train the workforce that the NHS needs for the future. The 3.4% increase that the Government has already set out is a start, but investment over a sustained period is required if we are to achieve the transformational growth needed.
We cannot afford to politicise this issue. The Government must also ensure that there is clear accountability in the NHS for workforce planning and take responsibility for ensuring that there are adequate staffing levels in the NHS.
It is also vital that the UK adopts an immigration system that does not financially punish migrant cancer researches, but instead encourages their immigration. The current UK immigration system is one of the most expensive in the world. Analysis has found that it already costs a researcher and their employer 540% more to emigrate to the UK than it does other in leading scientific nations. The government must introduce a reduction in the total visa costs for researchers and their dependents, and ensure that there are no arbitrary caps on skilled migration.
The fight against cancer should be an international and collective effort; the UK’S relationship with the EU must not break down during trade talks. I hope that the UK/EU political declaration will be built on so that researchers can continue to move and collaborate easily across borders. Only through this will we have the most modern and pioneering methods of combating cancer and saving lives.