25 November 2020

The Royal College of Pathologists welcomes the additional £3billion for the NHS announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Spending Review today.

Dr Mike Osborn, President, the Royal College of Pathologists said:

‘Following disruption caused by COVID-19, the College has serious concerns over preparations to deal with the backlog of non COVID-19 related illness, especially cancer care, and the related surge of demand for pathology services, particularly that related to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

While we welcome the £1billion to tackle the elective backlog promised by the Chancellor today, pathology workforce shortages highlighted ‘pre-COVID’ remain. Although recruitment into histopathology has increased, there remains a 25% shortfall in staff able to report results, with some regions having even higher shortages.

Building the cancer workforce, not just in histopathology, but also in haematology and other areas of pathology, has to be a key investment priority for government.

As well as more investment to recruit and retain more pathology staff, we also would like to see more training places, better IT for day-to-day work and capital investment to implement digital pathology more widely, so staff can work more efficiently and flexibly.'

The College recently signed a letter from Cancer Research UK to leaders of the four UK nations asking them to ensure cancer services are protected and to invest in workforce and equipment.

A recent report from Cancer Research UK Estimating the cost of growing the NHS cancer workforce in England by 2029  shows that for the histopathology workforce, without targeted action and investment, the number of histopathologists is set to reduce from the existing shortfall by an additional 2% by 2029.