Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Health Secretary Alan Johnson today announced a 5 year plan to improve the UK’s tackling of cancer.
Despite government spending on cancer services having tripled since the last plan in 2000, the UK has worse survival rates than the USA and many European countries. Over 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer and around 200,000 a year.
The plan includes; the banning of cigarette vending machines, new cigarette packaging, a review on the use of sun beds, increased investment in radiotherapy, and the extension of breast cancer screening to women from the ages of 47 to 73.
At the same time a campaign to increase public awareness of cancer causing lifestyles such as overeating and smoking will take place.
There will also be greater palliative care with improved information for newly diagnosed patients as well as measures to help patients get their lives back on track and cope with the long-term health, emotional and financial effects of cancer.
All cancer drugs, wherever possible, will be assessed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as soon as they are licensed. This is aimed at putting an end to the current situation where patients are left in limbo waiting many months, or even years, to find out if new treatments are to become available on the NHS.
Harpal Kumar, head of Cancer Research UK said: “We’re very encouraged that the time between receiving a cancer diagnosis and completing treatment is to be speeded up, not just for new drugs, but also for radiotherapy and for all stages of cancer treatment. This step, which will require considerable investment, will maximise survival chances and reduce anxiety for patients. But we need to ensure that the NHS has the extra money needed to meet these targets, particularly in radiotherapy where we know there are significant shortages at present.”
Conservative health spokesman Mark Simmonds pointed out that “if the UK achieved European-best levels of cancer survival rates then 95 lives each day could be saved”.