Majority of NHS groups 'providing inadequate cancer care', ratings show


Almost nine out of 10 NHS groups are failing cancer patients, with low rates of diagnosis and treatment, new ratings show.

Data from NHS England reveals that the vast majority of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England are performing poorly when it comes to diagnosing patients quickly, ensuring they get prompt treatment and boosting one-year survival rates.

In some areas, just one in three patients get an early diagnosis - half the figure for the best performing area - while almost half of patients in one area do not get their first treatment for cancer in a timely manner.

In other areas, thousands of cancer patients are dying too early due to poor care on the NHS.

CCGs control millions of pounds of NHS money and their role is to commission health services for the good of local populations.

But the stark data shows that of 209 CCGs, only 22 were "performing well" and a further seven were "top performing" - just 14% of the total.

Twenty-four had the ranking of "greatest need for improvement", including NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG, NHS Blackpool, NHS Bradford City, NHS Coastal West Sussex, NHS Doncaster, NHS East Staffordshire and NHS Leicester City.

A further 156 CCGs were ranked as "need improvement".

The seven areas with the top ranking were Harrogate and Rural District; Leeds North; Solihull; South Devon and Torbay; Stockport; Vale of York and NHS Wiltshire.

The worst performers on diagnosing cancer at an early stage were NHS Lincolnshire West CCG, which diagnoses just 33.3% of cancer patients at an early stage, followed by NHS Slough CCG (36.3%) and NHS Lincolnshire East CCG (36.5%). 

They compared to the top-performing NHS West Suffolk CCG, where 61% of patients are diagnosed at an early stage.

The worst performing CCG for one-year survival from cancer was NHS Newham CCG in London (63.9% of patients live for a year), followed by NHS Barking And Dagenham CCG (64.9%) and NHS Medway CCG (65.3%).

They compared to the top-performing NHS Harrow CCG, where 74.5% of cancer patients lived for a year after diagnosis.

Meanwhile, in NHS Thurrock CCG area, just 54.8% of patients with an urgent GP referral had their first treatment for cancer within 62 days, while at the top end of the scale, 97.5% of those living under NHS Richmond CCG are treated within 62 days of urgent referral by their GP.

In the last two years, the target to start treatment within 62 days has only been met once, with 2,000 cancer patients now waiting longer to start treatment.

An NHS England spokesman said: "NHS cancer patients' care is now the best it's ever been, but we've set stretching goals to save thousands more lives by 2020. Measured against this ambition, it's not surprising that most local services need to make further improvements, but we're going to track progress transparently so everyone can see how we are improving care and outcomes for patients."

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "The fact that so many CCGs in England have been identified as providing inadequate care to cancer patients, or requiring improvements in this area, is very concerning.

"It highlights just how much the NHS is struggling to meet the challenge of delivering cancer services which meet all the critical needs of people with cancer."