News story

From 2020, people with suspected cancer will be diagnosed faster

The government has pledged that from 2020, people with suspected cancer will be diagnosed within 28 days of being referred by a GP.

According to the Independent Cancer Taskforce, set up as part of the NHS’s Five Year Forward View to examine how to improve cancer care and survival rates, the target to diagnosis all suspected cancer cases within 28 days could help save up to 11,000 lives a year.

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health said:

For people who are worried they may have cancer, waiting for that all important test result is a nerve-wracking time. We have a duty to make sure this period of uncertainty is as short as possible.

For those who get the all clear, they will have peace of mind sooner.

Those who sadly have cancer will get treatment much quicker and we will save thousands of lives as a result.

Mr Hunt also announced new measures to develop a tailored recovery package for everyone surviving cancer. A more personalised treatment plan and better support to live well, with and beyond the disease.

New measures to help personalise people’s treatment and care include:

  • around 20,000 additional people a year having their cancers genetically tested to identify the most effective treatments, reducing unnecessary chemotherapy sessions
  • by 2020, patients will be able to access online information about their treatment and tests results
  • access to physical activity programmes, psychological support and practical advice about returning to work
  • help for those suffering with depression to make sure they have the right care at the right time
  • by 2017, there will be a new national quality of life measure to help monitor how well people live after their treatment has ended, so priorities for improvements can be identified

The government has made a commitment that, by 2020, it will spend up to £300 million more on diagnostics every year to help meet the new 28 day target.

Health Education England will start a new national training programme that will provide 200 additional staff with the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopies by 2018. This is in addition to the extra 250 gastroenterologists the NHS has already committed to train by 2020. Endoscopies are tests where the inside of your body can be examined for cancer.

The newly trained staff will be able to carry out almost a half a million more endoscopy tests on the NHS by 2020.

Harpal Kumar, chair of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, said:

These commitments are going to save thousands of lives and deliver a step change in patient experience and quality of life, so this is fantastic news. Diagnosing more cancers earlier could transform patients’ lives as it improves survival. But we’ve shown that services for diagnosing cancer are under immense pressure, which is why increased investment and extra staff are so important. Introducing the 28-day ambition for patients to receive a diagnosis will maximise the impact of this investment which, together with making results available online, will spare people unnecessary added anxiety and help cancer patients to begin treatment sooner.

It’s also great that molecular diagnostic tests will be made routinely available to all patients who might benefit. These tests can help doctors provide more tailored treatments that may improve survival and potentially reduce side effects from less effective treatments.

At the heart of the recommendations in the cancer strategy is our desire for patients to have the best outcomes and care in the world. It’s now up to the Government and NHS to make sure today’s commitments are introduced without delay, and we await further detail on how they will take forward the rest of the strategy. This is a great start.

The NHS will identify 5 hospitals across the UK to pilot the new target before the programme is rolled out nationally by 2020.