BBC’s Panorama’s ‘Britain’s Cancer Crisis’ conveyed eloquently the most powerful of messages to the country’s leaders. We have a cancer crisis – do something about it. There is, of course, recognition from politicians, civil servants and senior figures in healthcare that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on cancer services.

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Leaders: Listen to the patients – the voice in the choice

Leaders: Listen to the patients – the voice in the choice

The harrowing stories from cancer patients featured on BBC’s Panorama’s ‘Britain’s Cancer Crisis’ conveyed eloquently the most powerful of messages to the country’s leaders. We have a cancer crisis – do something about it. There is, of course, recognition from politicians, civil servants and senior figures in healthcare that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on cancer services.

There is, of course, recognition from politicians, civil servants and senior figures in healthcare that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on cancer services.

There are, indeed, great minds being applied to working out the solution. A solution there needs to be - and fast - as tens of thousands of people could die because their treatment has either not been diagnosed quickly enough or their treatment has had to be delayed. It is a monumental problem and one thing is certain; while bureaucracy works slowly, cancer doesn’t wait.

There is no shortage of good intention from political leadership or those charged with running the healthcare system. But, as those patients on Panorama made abundantly clear, it’s action that is needed now – not words nor ‘signals’.

Clearing the backlog of delayed appointments and operations will require a massive effort and that will mean offering services seven days a week in the NHS and way beyond what used to be ‘normal service’. It is a challenge that the UK should meet successfully.

In the earlier stages of the pandemic, a great cry went up from government for NHS Trusts to involve the independent sector to alleviate the burden on the NHS. It was clear then that one area where that could be particularly useful would be to use independent healthcare providers to support the NHS with diagnostic and out-patient services.

At Rutherford, we have done that at our centre in Wales. Before the pandemic, we provided – and still do – chemotherapy treatment for NHS patients in Northumbria.

Only last week we signed a contract with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to build a new diagnostic facility in Taunton and we hope to establish further facilities in partnerships with Trusts in other parts of the country.

Of course, critics of the independent sector will say this is about commercialisation and profit. We say it is about ensuring that patients have access to treatment when they need it.

I’ve never met a patient who did not want treatment as soon as is humanly possible. The humane thing to do is to meet that demand – wherever it is needed and partnership and collaboration is an obvious and constructive route to take. Just listen to the patients, the most important voice in the choice.

By Mike Moran, chief executive officer, Rutherford Health.