Objective: To undertake a postal survey of cancer networks to define the services available for the diagnosis, treatment and support of patients with head and neck cancer in England.
Findings: Thirty-four cancer networks are now responsible for the delivery of head and neck cancer services in England and 52 cancer units responded to our questionnaire. Multidisciplinary team working was evident in all centres. However such team working was not always fully staffed, especially in areas of national staff shortages such as pathology, radiology, dietetics and speech therapy. Rapid referral pathways were present for initial assessment of patients but clinically significant delays were identified in the provision of complex investigations, in access to intensive care beds and for oncological care – especially radiotherapy.
Conclusions: Major changes in service configuration are likely to be required if the current national targets of time to diagnosis and treatment are to be met.