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In May 2018, I introduced my private Member’s Bill on palliative care. Investment in palliative care will help save the NHS billions. While the long-term plan deals with some aspects of end-of- life care, it does not go far enough. There is still a postcode lottery when it comes to hospice funding, with some areas getting up to 50% of their funding from clinical commissioning groups, while other areas get as little as 1%.
We will all be living longer, so it is vital that we put in place proper funding for hospices and end-of-life care. I am very lucky to have North London Hospice’s health and wellbeing centre in my constituency. It provides excellent services for users, but I am still staggered that it has to constantly fundraise to keep them going. These services are vital and should not be dependent on people’s charity. I ask the Minister to commit to making all clinical commissioning groups assess the need for palliative care in their area and provide funds accordingly to meet that need.
Another area where we need additional investment is the NHS workforce. To address the anticipated rise in cancer, with the rise in life expectancy, the Government need to ensure that measures are in place to deal with training, recruitment and retention of staff. Macmillan Cancer Support states that currently 2.5 million people in the UK are living with cancer. That figure is expected to reach 4 million by 2030. That will put huge pressure on the NHS cancer workforce in the foreseeable future.
There is a particular concern about breast cancer specialists. For every three breast radiographers who retire over the next five years, only two are expected to replace them. Breast Cancer Now has called on the Government to invest £39 million in recruitment for the breast imaging and diagnostic workforce, as part of the plan to cover the cost of training to fill clinical radiologist vacancies and to address the current shortfall of radiographers. The problem is being compounded by the delay in the production of phase 2 of the cancer workforce plan, which should be an integral part of the long-term plan. Health Education England must produce phase 2 of the cancer workforce plan, which looks at how many staff are needed to meet growing patient demand. That can then be set out in the 10-year cancer workforce strategy.
Unless the Government get workforce planning right, I have serious concerns that patients will suffer. I urge the Minister to take action to deal with these matters urgently.