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12.05.16

NHS England promises £15m to support earlier cancer diagnosis

Faster diagnosis times are crucial to improving cancer survival times, NHS England has said in its new cancer strategy.

The strategy, in response to last year’s Independent Cancer Taskforce, involves a commitment to investing £15m in improving fast and early diagnosis.

The money will be spent on creating a national diagnostics capacity fund and trials of multidisciplinary diagnostic centres and the new standard of ensuring cancer is diagnosed or ruled out within 28 days of a GP referral.

Cally Palmer, national cancer director for England at NHS 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.”

Other strategies for improving diagnosis times include plans to ensure some forms of cancer are diagnosed earlier by increasing screening rates for cervical and bowel cancer and running a campaign to raise awareness of lung cancer symptoms.

The NHS will begin implementing a national system of Cancer Alliances from September 2016 and pilot delegated financial responsibilities from whole cancer pathways from April 2017.

The strategy includes deadlines for improving patient experience, including publishing the results of the 2015 Cancer Patient Experience Survey this summer, agreeing an approach to gathering feedback from black and minority ethnic (BME) patients with cancer by March 2017, and developing a standard for online access to test results by September 2017.

NHS England and government will also use the delayed childhood obesity strategy, the government’s tobacco control plan and Public Health England’s alcohol evidence review, to consider how to encourage healthy lifestyles and reduce cancer rates.

Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care at the Royal College of Nursing, warned that the strategy would be difficult to implement without more support for public health.

“Reducing avoidable cancers will require having solid public health services in place – which is a far cry from the current situation,” she said. “Public health and community teams are stretched to the max, and will need a significant increase in resources if they are to achieve the ‘upgrade’ this plan promises.”

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