NHS pushes forward with ambition to create world class cancer services

The NHS in England will today (Thursday) set out its plans to deliver world class cancer services, which includes a fund to find new ways of speeding up diagnosis with the potential to save thousands more lives every year.

The National Cancer Transformation Board, led by Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for England, will today publish a wide ranging plan designed to increase prevention, speed up diagnosis, improve the experience of patients and help people living with and beyond cancer.

This follows the release last year of the report of the NHS’s Independent Cancer Taskforce – led by Sir Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK – which identified how the NHS can achieve world-class cancer outcomes and save 30,000 lives a year by 2020.

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.”

Announced today is a £15 million initial and immediate investment for a major programme of work to support earlier and faster diagnosis of cancer. This programme will involve:

  • Creating a National Diagnostics Capacity Fund – investment to test initiatives to increase capacity and productivity of diagnostic services
  • Trialling new multidisciplinary diagnostic centres – run over the next two years, this will help inform other areas to replicate good practice across the country
  • Testing the new Faster Diagnosis Standard – piloted in five local health communities, the ambition is for patients referred for testing by a GP to be definitively diagnosed with cancer, or have cancer ruled out, within four weeks.

The NHS will also set up Cancer Alliances made up of clinical and other local leaders from across different health and care settings. These alliances will review all data for their area – including survival, early diagnosis rates, treatment outcomes, patient experience and quality of life – and use it to pinpoint areas for local improvement.

To support this, the NHS has brought together all the data available in one place to create a new integrated ‘dashboard’ for cancer, which has also been launched today. The dashboard will also include data on patient experience to start conversations locally through Cancer Alliances and ensure improvements are made if needed.

Professor Chris Harrison, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, working with Cally Palmer on the National Cancer Transformation Board, said: “The NHS is seeing 50% more patients with suspected cancer than four years ago and survival rates have never been higher. But there is still more we can do to ensure all people have a consistently good experience of care and support.

“Work is already well underway to realise the ambitions of the Cancer Taskforce – by working together, we can transform the services and offer a world-class cancer service for everybody.”

Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP 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.”

Other actions in the plan include:

  • Making the investment required to deliver a modern, high-quality service – To provide the best radiotherapy treatment, the NHS needs to modernise and upgrade its equipment. NHS England will focus on the highest priority replacements/upgrades for the greatest patient impact.
  • Developing a future workforce vision to deliver modern patient-centred cancer services – Work is already underway to meet the nearer term demand for diagnostics, to help ensure there are sufficient numbers of sonographers, radiographers, and radiologists.
  • Supporting people living with and beyond cancer – Rolling out the ‘Recovery Package’ to ensure that the individual needs of all people going through cancer treatment and beyond are met by tailored support and services.
  • Transforming commissioning, provision and accountability – The Cancer Vanguard, led by the Christie in Manchester, and The Royal Marsden and UCLH in London, will test models that introduce more formal accountability for whole pathway and population service planning and provision.

Cally Palmer added: “This is an ambitious plan which, over the next four years, provides us with an exciting opportunity to make a real difference to cancer patients everywhere.”