NHS England reveals 'world-class' cancer care plans


People with a suspected case of cancer will be given a definitive diagnosis within four weeks under ambitious new plans to provide "world-class" cancer care in England.

NHS England has set out plans to increase prevention, speed up diagnosis, improve the experience of patients and help people living with and beyond cancer.

Under the new strategy, people with suspected cancer will be diagnosed with cancer, or that cancer will be excluded, within 28 days of being referred by their GP.

Officials have set up a new National Diagnostics Capacity Fund which will help with the rising demand for diagnostics.

The National Cancer Transformation Board announced a £15 million investment to support earlier and faster diagnosis of cancer.

The money will also be used to trial new multidisciplinary diagnostic centres.

The action plan follows the NHS's Independent Cancer Taskforce report, published last year, which identified how the NHS can achieve world-class cancer outcomes and save 30,000 lives a year by 2020. The latest report says it is "committed" to delivering the Taskforce's strategy.

It also said it would ensure that the NHS provides a "modern" service - including addressing the "urgent" need to modernise radiotherapy machines - in February it emerged that many machines which are used day-in-day-out to deliver cancer treatment to patients are years past their ''best before'' dates.

NHS England will also do more to help patients living with the after effects of cancer.

It also plans to develop "Cancer Alliances". These groups, made up of regional experts across health and care settings, will review data on survival, early diagnosis rates, treatment outcomes, patient experience and quality of life - and use it to pinpoint areas for local improvement.

Cally Palmer, national cancer director for England, said: "Cancer survival rates have never been higher and we have some excellent cancer services in this country with dedicated and professional staff, but we know there is more we can do.

"One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer and too many people are being diagnosed when their cancer is advanced. We need to change this. Through this cancer strategy we will drive a transformation in cancer care that will touch every corner of the country and improve services for thousands of people."

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "We want to make the UK the best in the world for cancer care, treatment and survival.

"It is really important that this plan helps deliver the independent Cancer Taskforce strategy which this Government has firmly backed to improve cancer services across the country."

Commenting on the plans, Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "We welcome the announcement of NHS England plans to drive forward the cancer strategy for England. We hope that added investment in early diagnosis and the setting up of Cancer Alliances will play an important part in tackling recurring problem such as missed waiting time targets.

"We are also pleased to see commitments in the plan to ensure more people benefit from personalised care after treatment. But it is not clear how these parts of the strategy will be funded over the next five years.

"NHS England and the Government must set out how they propose to fund this essential part of the cancer strategy if the improvements described in the plan are to be delivered. NHS England must also guarantee that necessary funding will be ring fenced in future budgets to ensure the plan published today can credibly be put into action."

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "The new cancer strategy for England sets out the opportunity to save many thousands of lives from cancer every year. We're better informed than ever about how best to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease - but we're a long way from where we should be. What's needed now is action, so we welcome the publication of the plan from the National Cancer Transformation Board.

"If acted on, this strategy has the potential to transform people's experiences of cancer care as well as their chances of beating the disease. We urge the Government and NHS to now make the investments required and implement this strategy with commitment and speed."