Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement of £200m of funding for MRI and CT scanners, Ruth Thorlby, Assistant Director of Policy at the Health Foundation, said:
‘Despite some progress, the UK continues to lag behind other countries for cancer survival with shortages in diagnostic equipment that would enable early detection of the disease playing a key role.
‘The government’s announcement of funding for diagnostic equipment – if it is genuinely new funding – would be welcome, but the amount pledged falls considerably below what is needed to bring the UK up to an acceptable level. Among EU15 and G7 countries, the UK currently has the lowest number of both CT and MRI scanners per capita, with less than a third of that in Germany. We have calculated that bringing the UK up to the average number of scanners would require around £1.5bn in extra capital spending.
‘It is uncertain whether this money can truly help create the extra capacity needed in cancer services given major NHS workforce shortages across the country. Staff are needed to operate the machinery and report scan results, but shortages contribute significantly to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
‘While any efforts to address significant underinvestment in the NHS’s infrastructure in recent years are positive, such piecemeal funding makes it difficult for trusts to adequately plan their spending. What is ultimately needed is a substantial, long-term capital settlement which is allocated based on a clear assessment of the health care service’s needs.’