Cancer- GPs given money and powers to help save 5,000 lives
The lives of more than 5,000 cancer sufferers will be saved each year under an £800 million government drive to make England’s survival rates among the best in Europe, the Health Secretary announced this week.
The strategy will focus on increasing the number of lives saved by the NHS with a series of measures to improve cancer survival rates that currently lag behind those in most other developed nations, Andrew Lansley said.
Under the plans, GPs will be given the power to order a range of cancer tests direct from hospitals without having to refer the patient first to a consultant.
A £10 million awareness campaign will encourage people to see their doctor sooner if they develop symptoms. Funding will also be announced for 1,200 additional cancer specialists and new screening technologies to improve detection.
The total funding package will be worth about £800 million. Health is one of only two Whitehall departments whose spending has been ring-fenced by the Coalition, although there will inevitably be questions about whether this is achievable.
Cancer claims more than 150,000 lives a year in Britain. One in four of all deaths is caused by the disease, with survival rates for cervical, bowel and breast cancer among the worst in the developed world.
Previous studies have suggested England’s survival rates are on a par with Poland, despite the NHS spending significantly more on health care.
Late diagnosis is usually to blame, Mr Lansley told MPs. That will govern the new strategy, which will try to ensure far more people adiagnosed at an early stage of the disease so that cancers can be caught and treated sooner.
Mr Lansley said “Cancer affects us all. Everyone will have a story of someone they love battling the disease.” He will add: “Our ambition is simple, to deliver survival rates that are among the best in Europe and this strategy outlines how we will make our first steps towards this.
“The Coalition Government’s reforms of health and care services will drive improvements in what matters most to patients and their families — cancer outcomes, lives saved — that is what we will be measuring our success against.”
The new cancer strategy for England will explicitly commit to saving an extra 5,000 lives a year by 2014-15.
GPs will be able to send patients directly for diagnostic tests such as X-rays to help diagnose lung cancer, ultrasounds to detect ovarian, liver and pancreatic cancers; colonoscopies for bowel cancer and MRI scans to aid brain cancer diagnosis.
The strategy will also pledge £50 million of funding for additional cancer drugs; a £200 million Cancer Drugs Fund until 2013; the expansion of radiotherapy services and the introduction of bowel cancer screening technology that could save thousands of lives a year.
It will also announce a £10.75 million awareness campaign to focus on breast, lung and bowel cancer.
Providing patients with quicker access to diagnostic tests, through GPs, is seen by Mr Lansley as the key to improving survival rates.
The move to give GPs power to directly order tests fits with the Government’s health plan of giving more power to family doctors.
Progress has been made on survival rates, particularly with breast cancer. The chance of surviving for five years from diagnosis has risen from 74.8 per cent between 1995 and 1999 to a projected rate of 81.6 per cent between 2005 and 2007, beginning to catch up with countries such as Norway and Sweden.
However, a report in The Lancet last month showed that survival rates for other cancers continue to trail those of other leading nations.
While five-year survival rates for lung cancer rose from 7.0 to 8.8 per cent here, in Canada they increased from 15.7 to 18.4 per cent. Separate research by the National Cancer Intelligence Network has found that nearly a quarter, 23 per cent, of all cancer cases go undetected until the emergency admission stage.
Tags: Andrew Lansley, Cancer, cancer survival, Conservatives, Doctors, GPs, Health Professionals, NHS Deaths