Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chapter 15 - The Future of the NHS

This is a summary of chapter 15 - the crystal ball of cancer care, written by Professor Karol Sikora. He is Dean of Britain’s first independent Medical School at the Universities of Brunel and Buckingham. He is an editor of the standard UK postgraduate textbook Treatment of Cancer which this year goes to its 5th edition. He was Professor of Cancer Medicine and honorary Consultant Oncologist at Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London where he was Clinical Director of Cancer Services for 12 years. He was seconded as Chief of the WHO Cancer Programme in 1997.

In this chapter he worryingly highlights that the global incidence of cancer will increase by 100% over the next twenty years. The public, understandably, is more frightened of cancer than any other illness, but warns that it is difficult to present balanced views, as everyone has a vested interest and calm analysis is not front-page stuff.

He believes that the NHS has unfortunately not anticipated the dramatically increasing costs associated with high quality cancer care. Even though politicians are keen to improve cancer care, the existing system just can’t cope, despite the massive amounts of taxpayers’ money thrown at it. He warns that the NHS in its current format will simply not be able to meet the surge in demand for innovative cancer care.

He proposes that it is time to get the independent sector to drive the cancer delivery agenda. Moving the NHS away from the Stalinist era, towards the consumer age, where people can vote with their feet. He explains how the delivery of care could be done in the future, giving a template to rollout a network of outpatient ‘cancer hotels’. He believes that the NHS needs a revolution, demolishing the icons of the past – waiting times, targets, restrictions to access, propaganda and mindless bureaucracy - cracking them apart like the statues of Lenin around Eastern Europe. When they fall, the new Phoenix of a consumer led healthcare system will emerge. Britain could then lead the world in cancer care.

I would encourage you to comment on this chapter further after reading his hard hitting view about the future of cancer care. Please feel free to comment here or log onto

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