NHS England has announced the launch of a new independent cancer task force and the launch of a major early diagnosis programme for cancer, in a bid to diagnose an extra ten per cent of people early. The plans are part of a drive to improve cancer survival rates in England, which are currently below European average.
The cancer task force will work across the entire health system. It will include cancer specialist doctors and clinicians, patients groups and charity leaders. It will consider prevention, first contact with services, diagnosis, treatment, support for those living with and beyond cancer, and end-of-life care, as well as how all these services will need to develop and innovate in future. It will assess the opportunity for improved cancer care by March 2015 and produce a new five-year cancer strategy by the summer.
The early diagnosis programme will test new approaches to identifying cancer more quickly, by testing a number of initiatives across more than 60 sites around the country. These initiatives will include:
- Patients will be able to book their own appointment directly with specialists and hospitals.
- Patients will be able to have several tests on the same day in the same place.
- Community pharmacists will be able to fast track patients.
- GPs will send patients directly for tests without having to refer to a specialist.
Late diagnosis is a major issue with ovarian cancer, with three quarters of women diagnosed once the cancer has already spread. A quarter of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last five years took more than three months to visit their GP after they first experienced symptoms, and almost a third of women face delays of six months or more in getting a correct diagnosis from first visiting their GP.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “We enthusiastically welcome the announcement of radical new plans to improve early diagnosis. All too often, women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed too late and this means that the five-year survival rate is amongst the worst in Europe. These new initiatives will empower patients, making our campaign to increase awareness of symptoms all the more essential – it is vital that the government include ovarian cancer in their Be Clear on Cancer symptoms awareness programme, to ensure women know to refer themselves for diagnostic tests.”