11 March 2019

We were delighted to contribute to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blood Cancer’s meeting in parliament which looked at how the NHS Long Term Plan will work for those with and affected by blood cancer.

Professor Jo Martin, College President, has previously presented to the APPG, during blood cancer awareness month in September, on a particular patient’s path to diagnosis and the breadth of expertise in the pathology workforce that supported this. A blood cancer patient would typically be supported by an estimated 88 years of training and expertise across the pathology specialties.

The meeting was hosted by Henry Smith MP (Conservative, Crawley) who chairs the APPG. Sarah Benger, Strategy Lead for the NHS England National Cancer Programme, gave the NHS England perspective to the Long Term Plan and spoke about the ambitions in the plan such as 3 in 4 people diagnosed at an early stage of cancer by 2028.   

A patient also told his story, emphasising how the journey to diagnosis can be long particularly as workforce issues can mean a delay in getting results to patients. The College histopathology census, Meeting Pathology Demand, showed that only 3% of histopathology departments had enough staff to meet clinical demand.   

Professor Martin contributed to the meeting and highlighted that workforce is a huge problem, adding that investment in training and personal development is essential. Investment in IT is also needed to replace the Laboratory Information Systems that are currently over 30 years old. These are vital to make sure that patient samples are processed accurately and that patient results get to where they are needed as quickly as possible. Professor Martin supported the views of the Chair and patients, that waiting times for diagnosis need to be kept as short as possible, and stressed the importance of addressing workforce concerns so that patients receive the support they need.

The College has distributed a haematology and transfusion medicine workforce survey and the information we gather will be of huge benefit to the College, helping us to safeguard the future of haematology and transfusion medicine.