The NHS in England has become the first healthcare system in the world to roll out a time-saving anti-cancer injection. The immunotherapy atezolizumab is given to around 3,600 cancer patients in England, and is currently administered directly into veins via a drug transfusion that takes between 30 minutes and one hour.
However, the treatment can now be administered with one injection that takes just seven minutes, following approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This is more comfortable and convenient for patients, and also provides capacity for healthcare teams to speed up cancer treatment times.
NHS National Director for Cancer Professor Peter Johnson said: “The world-first introduction of this treatment will mean that hundreds of patients can spend less time at the hospital and will free up valuable time in NHS chemotherapy units.”
He added: “Maintaining the best possible quality of life for cancer patients is vital, so the introduction of faster under-the-skin injections will make an important difference.
“Today’s announcement is the latest in a series in the 75th year of the NHS that highlights how an innovation-driven health service is securing the most advanced cancer treatments for patients.”
Despite a range of initiatives to speed up referral to treatment times (RTT) in the NHS, waiting lists have reached record levels of 7.6 million people. This figure could potentially rise to 9 million before it starts to fall, due to the multiple pressures on the NHS as it tackles the Covid-related backlog and battles with staffing shortages and industrial action.
The Guardian reports that 120,000 people in England have died while on waiting lists for hospital treatment in 2022, which is twice the number of people who died in 2017/18. However NHS England has said that the data used to draw these conclusions was unreliable.