UK lagging behind Europe in diagnosis, one year survival rates vary greatly

1 Dec 2009

NHS challenged to take action on areas with poor cancer survival rates

The NHS has been challenged to improve cancer services by publishing local data on survival and mortality rates, Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced today.

The figures are published as part of the second annual report for the Cancer Reform Strategy, the vision document originally published in December 2007 setting out all the improvements that should be implemented over the next five years.

Last year the Cancer Reform Strategy Advisory Board accepted that falling mortality rates indicated good progress had been made at a national level but recommended that this year’s annual report focus primarily on local progress.

As a result this year’s report Achieving Local Implementation will include local information so the NHS can identify priorities for action. The data will cover:

Breast and cervical cancer screening coverage one-year survival rates to highlight late diagnosis mortality rates use of the 2-week urgent referral pathway to highlight late diagnosis compliance with the 62-day standard for referral to treatment participation in audits implementation of the Improving Outcomes Guidance length of inpatient stays and emergency admissions.Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:

'Cancer treatment in Britain has improved vastly in recent years and this is shown in the falling mortality rates and increasing survival rates.

'However we know that survival rates vary across the country, particularly in deprived areas, so this year’s report has deliberately focused on local variations so we can highlight to the NHS where they need to take action.

'I hope that the publication of this data combined with the Prime Minister’s pledge to give patients key diagnostic tests within just one week of seeing their GP will save thousands more lives.'

National Cancer Director Mike Richards said: 'Excellent progress has been made in national implementation of the Cancer Reform Strategy over the past year including the vaccination of 78 percent of girls aged between 12 to13 years against cervical cancer and the rollout of bowel cancer screening for those aged 60 to 69 across the country.

'This year we have seen a further fall in cancer mortality with the latest data showing a drop of almost 20 percent since 1997 and considerable improvements in the survival rates for breast, colon, rectum and prostate cancer.

'The challenge now is to keep up this momentum and this year I have identified tackling local variations as my top priority. I urge all PCTs to use this new data to take action so we can improve outcomes for all cancer patients.'

Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support said: 'We welcome the publication of this data as a means to ensure the local NHS delivers on the Cancer Reform Strategy. This will provide an opportunity for the whole NHS to learn from the success of the best performing PCTs and will help to improve standards across the board.

'It is great to know that survival rates are improving, but we must stay focused to ensure that no matter who you are, where you are, or which cancer you have, you get the possible best cancer care.'

Other important progress highlighted in the annual report includes the vaccination of over 78 percent of girls aged 12 to 13 years who have received all three doses of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine. It is estimated that the introduction of the HPV vaccine will save about 400 lives per year.

In addition the rollout of bowel cancer screening to men and women aged 60 to 69 years is now almost complete across the country and almost 4000 cancers have been diagnosed through the screening programme so far.

Source: Department of Health

Download Full Report: Cancer reform strategy: achieving local implementation, second annual report