Funding and staff 'cut' for cancer networks

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Clinical networks which oversee the care of cancer, heart and stroke patients in the NHS have had their budgets and staff cut, figures show.

Some of the groups say they are postponing projects due to uncertainty from the changes made in England.

The data comes as a result of Freedom Of Information (FOI) questions put to the networks by Labour.

Ministers are confident the networks - set up to improve care and prevention of disease - will continue to do so.

But the shadow care minister, Liz Kendall, claimed the figures showed the networks were "in chaos" and facing "huge uncertainty about their future".

There are currently 28 cancer networks and 28 stroke and heart networks - both areas will be condensed into 12 groups across England after April, with diabetes joining heart and stroke care.

'Scaled back'

More than 75% of the clinical networks responded to the FOI request.

The cancer teams said funding had been cut by around 25%, and 73 staff had been lost since 2009.

The teams looking after heart and stroke care said their funding had been cut by 12% and 38 posts had gone in the past three years.

Start Quote

The fact that the Board is putting £42m into the networks is a sign of how important we think they are.”

End Quote Prof Sir Mike Richards NHS Commissioning Board

Ms Kendall said: "Ministers have repeatedly promised to protect the funding for clinical networks. The government should be working to support these local specialists."

The networks have been credited with improving and streamlining care for patients at a local level, and making their treatment more straightforward if they have to attend several hospitals.

Examples of achievements include reorganising stroke services so fewer patients die, and speeding up X-ray results for faster cancer diagnosis.

In the FOI responses, the networks say programmes they use to support doctors and nurses are already being scaled back - examples given include a chemotherapy nurse post not being replaced and community training programmes in rehabilitation after stroke no longer running.

'Unsettling times'

An oncologist from Yorkshire, where the new network will cover the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region, said: "I never dreamt that a leviathan such as what is being proposed would be the plan.

"The new network will be too big to be able to reflect local capabilities and needs, yet too small to have the authority of national guidelines."

The NHS Commissioning Board plans to give funding worth £42m to four clinical network areas from April.

They will be cancer, cardiovascular disease, maternity and children's services, and mental health -including dementia. Posts for new clinical directors for different disease areas are due to be advertised next week.

The national director for cancer, Prof Sir Mike Richards, who will be the board's director for reducing premature mortality, acknowledged that cancer networks would have a "smaller proportion" of the networks' budget in the future - and he admitted the coming weeks would be "unsettling and difficult" for staff who might receive notices of their jobs being at risk.

He said: "Everybody recognises that the networks have played a huge part in delivering change. They have been a very important channel between the patients and doctors, and the Department of Health.

"I am confident that in the future the networks will continue to play their important role.

"The fact that the Board is putting £42m into the networks, as against the current £33m, is a good sign of how important we think they are.

"Although cancer networks will have a smaller proportion of the budget in the future, there are still backroom efficiencies that can be made, to make things work more effectively. Increasing the footprint of each network will make them more cost-efficient.

"I do recognise this is a time of maximum uncertainty, particularly with staff being put on notice. The next few weeks will be difficult."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Why cannot people see that things would not be any different no matter what political party is in power?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    #51 Captain Jack. So do u think the best way to level the playing field is for less money to be spent? Bizarre. And where do you get your figures from? Firstly, being on a transplant list is cumulative (many can live for years). There are around 10,000 on the list. In 2010 157,000 died from cancer. Transplants rely on donors & presumed consent will help that. This further cut is another disgrace.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Stop scaremongering!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    how would they feel if a relative of theres had this terrible illness oh i forgot they all have enough money to pay for private health care or at least there all pretty good at giving back handers to get what they want .

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Further proof, if any were needed, that the NHS will never be safe in the hands of the Tories. How Cameron has the brass neck to proclaim their health policies is beyond me, with local A&E's closing at a rate of knots, he and his chums should hang their heads in shame. Still, as long as we can find £53m per day to fund our EU membership all is well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Well thets one way to cut the population!
    Since when did money become more important than life???

    Erm, thousands of years ago, around the time of human sacrifice to sun & other gods, before the invention of "there can be only one" corporate religions.

    By 2020, NHS & ALL public services in UK will be smaller than now, or UK bankrupt = bad either way

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    The point about the existing network is that they seem organic and are in the control of the clinicians. As such they are responsive to local conditions. The new arrangements seem to have a more centralised feeling and hence more bureaucratic. This makes them ripe for future privatiastion (money men have the final say) rather than the present system (clinicians have the final say)

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Its ok, give it 10 yrs and we'll be short of the experts again and having to bring in qualified people from outside the UK, then the cycle of complaining "those foreigners have taken all our jobs" will start again. Its always the same the tories come in, shirk responsibility and cut 1000's of jos regardless. The 'Vicious Circle'.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Seems like the real policy here is: kill em off and they cost nothing.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Lots of lefties on here today, has your guardian not dropped through the letter box yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    My husband has lung cancer and I am frightened about the future. Why are billions of pounds being taken from the NHS this money should be re-invested. We are returning to pre-NHS days when a majority will not be able to afford to pay for care. The rich will be alright but the remainder will suffer I never thought I would see such things happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    43.Old Codger
    They were given a 'mandate'... By whom? How could anybody vote for them, they didn't exist at the time of the election.

    Didn't they? I could swear the Tories, LibDems and Labour and a few other parties were all vying for our votes at the time of the election.

    Wake up and follow the money is all I will say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Oh well there is a bright side.... no longer with the other illnesses that are life threatening be seen as poor relation to cancer... remember more people die on the transplant waiting list than they do from cancer. Perhaps a more equally shared budget for all illness will now be introduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    It seems we are not all "in it together" these unfeeling vicious nasty budget cuts are only targeting the sick, disabled and increasing numbers in near poverty. If Cameron or his family required cancer support they could fund it from their pots of £millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Is a reduction in funding, i.e a cut, or to put it another way, less money, what the government mean when they say they are putting more money into the NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Surely this government is argument enough that so-called 'Godwin's Law' should be 'repealed'. But when will the people of this country wake up and say no more? Only when it's too late - as always.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    @ 41 Money became more important than life as soon as the Tories said the NHS is safe in their hands!


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