NHS chief Simon Steven has publicly thanked celebrities Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry for going public on their battles with prostate cancer, saying it is encouraging other men to get themselves checked out and ultimately saving lives.
He also announced £10 million in extra funding to help the NHS cope with increased demand for diagnosis and treatment for the additional people now coming forward for help.
The NHS is already seeing and treating more people than ever before and as more men have come forward for help with prostate cancer, demand has increased, meaning some are experiencing longer waits. Latest figures show that from April to July this year, 14,479 patients received treatment for a urological cancer – an increase of 3,929 (36%) compared to the same period last year.
NHS England and NHS Improvement are already working with trusts to help them manage the additional demand and the extra £10 million will form part of the support package. It will be used to increase capacity in areas where support is most needed, for example by extending clinic hours.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “A debt of gratitude is owed to Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry (pictured above) for the work they have done to urge men to seek medical advice if they think something isn’t right. The ‘Turnbull and Fry effect’ could help save lives.
“This additional investment will help ensure the NHS can manage this jump in demand, so that all people with suspected cancer are tested and treated quickly.”
There were 70,000 visits to the NHS website advice page on prostate cancer in March – a 250% increase from the monthly average of around 20,000. The surge followed media coverage about former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull and prominent celebrity Stephen Fry revealing they were being treated for the disease. Both urged other men who might be experiencing symptoms to get themselves medically checked, as early diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment.
Around the same time, it was also announced that the number of people dying from prostate cancer has overtaken deaths from breast cancer. This is largely due to improved routine testing for breast cancer leading to better early detection rates, increased numbers of successful treatments and far fewer deaths. It is hoped the same can be achieved for other types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Heather Blake, from leading charity Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s very encouraging that NHS England is injecting £10 million to deal with some of the most urgent capacity issues around prostate cancer diagnosis, and we welcome this investment. With improvements to prostate cancer diagnosis already under way, this funding can help start to increase MRI scanner capacity and the radiologist workforce.
“Following the £75 million research investment for prostate cancer pledged by the Prime Minister earlier this year, today’s announcement again shows a positive commitment from decision makers to getting men the early and accurate diagnosis and treatments for prostate cancer that are needed to save lives. We look forward to seeing more detail outlined in the upcoming Budget and NHS England cancer strategy announcements later this Autumn. Most importantly, we would like to see these include the aim of getting to a screening programme, as this will have the biggest impact.”
● You can find out more about prostate cancer, including common symptoms and treatment options, by clicking here. It is most prevalent in men over 50, but anyone who is concerned they might be affected should consult their GP without delay. In many cases it can be detected through a simple blood test, called a PSA test, which men over 50 can request from their GP. While this test is not conclusive, it is a simple first step in determining if further testing is needed.