Cancer care: England is still lagging behind the best

Woman having an MRI

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England has failed to bridge the gap between the best-performing countries in cancer treatment despite 20 years of testing, according to the analysis.

The Health Foundation's review of the government's balance sheet between 1995 and 2015 revealed that despite four strategies setting ambitious goals, the NHS was still lagging behind the best.

He added that if services were improved, 10,000 lives could be saved each year.

Ensuring earlier diagnosis was essential

Professor Sir Mike Richards, former government tsar who led the review, warned patients that it was too difficult to access tests and analyzes.

"Although progress has been made, the goals of all these strategies have not been achieved."

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He added that the number of missed opportunities to save lives was the equivalent of a "fat carrier of people falling from the sky every two weeks".

This comes just a month after the prime minister promised to make early cancer diagnosis a key priority of NHS spending for years to come.

Waiting times for cancer are "at the worst level"

What is the distance to the NHS?

Survival rates improve. In 2000, 62% of patients had survived for at least one year. In 2015, this proportion had increased to 72%.

At the same time, five-year survival increased from 42% to 53%.

But other countries have also improved. The Health Foundation highlighted the UK's performance against five other countries – Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

This has been done for six key cancers – the colon, rectum, breast, lung, ovaries and prostate.

For each of them, the United Kingdom has remained in the last two since 2000 for five-year survival. Only breast cancer has bridged the gap with the best.

The think tank highlighted figures showing that 10,000 deaths could be prevented each year with a better diagnosis. This represents one in 13 deaths due to the disease.

What's the problem?

Sir Mike talks about the "narrow barrier" in the NHS.

He added that general practitioners were under pressure not to refer too many patients, while the NHS did not have enough equipment or staff to perform all the tests and would ideally scan it.

Addressing this problem would require significant investment, the report said.

GPs direct nearly two million patients a year for urgent testing and analysis, almost four times more than they did ten years ago.

But the increase in referrals has coincided with long delays, as the NHS is now struggling to meet its targets.

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And despite the extra numbers referred, one in five cases is still diagnosed via an emergency presentation in places such as accident and emergency units.

Patients diagnosed by this pathway are less likely to survive because the cancer was diagnosed late.

Sir Mike said the services had also been undermined by the Health and Health Care Act of 2012, which led to the removal of regional groups of cancer specialists as part of the broader restructuring of the health service. .

He said that this has caused many experienced professionals to leave the NHS.

What does the government do?

Sir Mike praised the fact that the government had promised additional funding – an additional £ 20 billion a year by 2023 – and that cancer would be a key part of that fight.

Last month, the Prime Minister pledged a new strategy to ensure early diagnosis of cancer, only half of which at the moment.

NHS England is already piloting rapid diagnostic clinics. These are essentially single-window screening centers where patients can access various specialists and procedures on the same day.

Sir Mike said these steps would help.

He also called for more to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms to watch for – studies show that the British sometimes hesitate to come forward when they show signs of cancer.

And he added that the NHS needed to look at new approaches, citing research showing that people at high risk for lung cancer could benefit from a new form of disease screening through low-dose CT scans.

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said that improving early diagnosis was a "top priority", pointing out that a new 28-day diagnostic goal would be put in place.

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