Surge in prostate cancer referrals following Stephen Fry’s diagnosis
Matthew Swindells, deputy chief executive of NHS England, recently commented on the increase in awareness of prostate cancer following Stephen Fry’s announcement of his own diagnosis at the beginning of 2018:
‘We have seen increases in referrals into a number of the cancer specialties, particularly urology, in the sort of 15% level jump this year, which is unprecedented.’
NHS services have a target of 62 days to get a suspected prostate cancer patient initiated on treatment following an urgent referral from their GP. Figures from April – June 2018, released last month, show that this target has been missed again in the worst performance since records began.
Matthew Swindell said that the reason for the significant drop ‘is a complex story’ but that it was ‘largely driven by Stephen Fry getting prostate cancer and the media coverage of that.
‘I was deeply frustrated that we didn’t get back to the performance target at the end of last year for the enormous amount of work that went on around the country and then it dropped off, and when we look at the data there’s been an extraordinary spike in demand.’
He then added: ‘We now have as an NHS to be able to work out how we manage our demand and our capacity and get smarter, because there isn’t an enormous box of people to run diagnostic services… we have to get smarter about how we do this.’
In response to these comments, Heather Blake, Director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK replied: ‘Since the beginning of 2018 we have seen an unprecedented amount of public interest in prostate cancer, following the announcement that it is now the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, and high profile individuals such as Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull sharing their experience of the disease. It is likely that this increased awareness will have had an impact on the number of men at risk of the disease going to their doctor to discuss prostate cancer and subsequently sent for further tests.
‘It is a good thing if awareness of this killer disease is increasing, and more men are taking control by discussing it with their GP. However, this reinforces the need to find diagnostic tools that are reliable enough to be used as part of a national screening programme for prostate cancer, something we are committed to doing through our research programme. This would not only provide more certainty around diagnosis for men and save more lives, it would also make it easier for NHS providers to plan resources around it.’
What are your views? Do you believe that the increase in awareness of prostate cancer that resulted from the announcements and media coverage of Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull was a positive or a negative development?
To watch the video of Stephen Fry candidly discussing his diagnosis of prostate cancer, click here.