On Monday 28th November, Sanofi and Skin Cancer UK held a joint Parliamentary reception to formally launch a new report The Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patient Pathwayimproving patient journeys and experience of care.  The report shows that non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is severely under-recognised and under-prioritised by national and local health systems throughout the UK.

While NMSC is the most common cancer in the UK (with more cases than breast, bowel, and prostate cancer combined) and becoming increasingly prevalent, people living with this debilitating condition are facing multiple challenges to receiving high quality and timely care.

Survey results from the report show 97% of respondent Dermatologists, Oncologists, and Surgeons believe a national guideline on the referral and management of NMSC patients must be published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), with 96% of respondents saying that if published, their local health system should implement the national NMSC guideline including putting a full patient pathway in place.

Further survey findings demonstrate that 93% agree a national NMSC guideline would improve patient outcomes, and 87% feel it would reduce time to a definitive diagnosis.    

Improving NMSC patient journeys and experience of care

The NHS 2022/23 Priorities and Operational Planning Guidance for England identified skin cancer as a priority area for increasing diagnostic and treatment capacity. However, despite the rhetoric of national prioritisation, 65% of clinicians surveyed believe that NMSC is not being adequately prioritised by NHS England.

Around 230,000 people are diagnosed with NMSC every year in the UK, however, the number is likely higher. NMSC accounts for 20% of all new cancers, and 90% of all new skin cancers. Since the early 1990s, the UK incidence of NMSC has increased by 166%, and over the last decade, the incidence of NMSC has increased by 42% in the UK. The incidence rates for NMSC are forecast to reach almost 400,000 per year by 2025, and the associated costs are expected to rise from £289-£399 million a year in 2020, to £338-£465 million in 2025.

Gill Nuttall - CEO, Melanoma UK and Skin Cancer UK

“There is no up to date, comprehensive, national clinical guideline available on the referral and management of NMSC patients in the UK. The consequence is multiple, inconsistent local and national guidelines and pathways, with some areas not having any framework in place for these patients at all.

Regional variations between the definition used to distinguish NMSCs, speed and access to the correct professionals, and time to diagnosis are resulting in a postcode lottery for patients, which is putting thousands of patients’ lives at risk. We’re keen to work together with NICE, NHS England, SIGN in Scotland, and other stakeholders to provide a unified, up-to-date national guideline.”              

Elliot Colburn MP - Conservative Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington & Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer

“Workforce shortages are especially present in skin cancer, with shortfalls across the entire NMSC diagnosis, treatment, and management pathway. While long-term efforts are welcome, short-term solutions are urgently needed for NMSC to plug the gap. The publication of a comprehensive, national guideline should detail the workforce requirements to streamline a full NMSC patient pathway, and of course, would then require sufficiently staffed teams to effectively implement the steps.

Without progress on resource capacity, it is estimated more than 340,000 people between 2019 and 2028 will miss out on an early cancer diagnosis, which will be catastrophic for the growing number of NMSC patients.”     

Anju Bhalla - Head of Oncology & Haemato-Oncology, Sanofi UK & Ireland

“There is no better time to discuss skin cancer than right now, and focus on NMSC is particularly important. One of the critical recommendations from our report is NMSC should be established as a priority in national cancer policy. The Department for Health and Social Care, as well as national health systems, have an opportunity to increase the prioritisation of skin cancer.

We encourage immediate action to drive momentum in service provision and improve patient outcomes.”