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Today (Wednesday 15th March 2023), the Chancellor released his spring fiscal statement (referred to as ‘the budget’). We have set out some key announcements and how they might impact pancreatic cancer patients and their families.
Today the Chancellor missed the opportunity to address the public sector pay and NHS workforce crises. We are disappointed that these issues were not addressed in today’s budget. To diagnose pancreatic cancer early enough for survival, patients must be present at the GP and be referred for a CT scan for diagnosis before the tumour is inoperable. The current staff shortages are impacting the waiting times for CT scans and fundamentally adding vital waiting time to a patient’s diagnosis.
Before today’s announcement, Pancreatic Cancer Action and over 100 other health and care organisations wrote to the Chancellor to call for funding to meet the staffing forecasts in the NHS long-term workforce plan. He did not deliver this. With 7.1 million people currently on NHS waiting lists in England, urgent action is required in the NHS. The workforce is the critical limiting factor in removing waiting lists and restoring timely access to care. The NHS long-term workforce plans the government has committed to delivering are a vital opportunity to address endemic staff shortages and increase supply.
Current staff shortages lead to additional costs to the public purse as locums and agency staff are employed to plug gaps. £7.1 billion was spent on agency and bank staff in hospitals in England in 2020/21 alone, up from £6.2bn the year before. Strategic increases in substantive staff would reduce reliance on locums and agency staff and provide cost savings in the long run and a better quality of care for patients.
In response to the Spring statement, Joe Kirwin, Health, Policy and Projects Manager at Pancreatic Cancer Action, said:
"This is again another missed opportunity to make a real difference to pancreatic cancer survival rates. Investing in our NHS workforce is vital to ensure cancer patients a diagnosed in time for treatment. Despite our disappointment, we won't stop fighting for our patients, their families and carers."
Other announcements impacting patients and their families include the energy price guarantee, which caps the average household bills to £2,500, which will be extended at its current level from April until June. Furthermore, the Chancellor has revealed that the childcare system will be getting a massive reform, as the government has extended their 30 hours free childcare scheme to children from nine months old. The current funding is offered to children three and four years old. The new initiative will cover younger children, with the aim of encouraging parents to return to work sooner without the worry about childcare costs.
The government also launched a new “Universal Support” system, which will provide £4,000 worth of support funding for disabled people each year to help them find work. Jeremy Hunt said 50,000 disabled people a year would be supported by this new scheme.
We will keep fighting for patients and their families affected by pancreatic cancer and the cost-of-living crisis by doing everything we can to deliver the support they need.