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Key cancer area improvement in England

A new report has announced improvements for key areas of cancer in England since the publication of the Cancer Reform Strategy

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has announced 'improvements and efficiencies' have been made in key areas of cancer services in England since the publication of the Cancer Reform Strategy in 2007.

The Cancer Reform Strategy was created to build on the progress of the NHS Cancer Plan in 2000, setting directions and guidance for cancer services, with an aim to make UK cancer services among the best in the world by 2012.

The recent NAO report said achievements have been made for waiting times associated with treatment and support, with reductions also made in the time spent in hospital. This is primarily down to patients being treated as day cases. Mortality rates were also said to have fallen.

There is also potential for a greater scale of efficiency, as Primary Care Trust (PCT) performances vary across the nation, with the possibility for hundreds of millions of pounds to be saved. Understanding of the reasons for variations between PCTS in minimising emergency admissions was said to be limited.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "The Department of Health's strong direction and high profile leadership has resulted in improved cancer services in key areas. Further improvement depends, to a significant degree, on raising standards of practice around the country up to the best. A key factor in driving this is a much improved approach to information on cancer services."

It is estimated the NHS spent £6.3bn on cancer services for 2008-2009, though the cost per head for each PCT varied between £55 and £154.

With its report, the NAO suggest efficiency methods, including reducing the length of a patient's stay in hospital to the level of best performing PCTs. If achieved, it could be worth £113m to the NHS.

The report's conclusion predicted an increase in the number of new cancer cases each year from 255,000 currently, to 300,000 by 2020. Tougher financial restrictions are also expected to hit care services.

The NAO said 'there is risk to the successful delivery of any future strategy unless there is considerable further improvement in the information used to support its implementation'.

Recommendations were also made to the Department of Health to develop a plan that identifies timelines for taking several actions, including the development of a measurement strategy which includes common standards for the capture of cost and activity data; tightening the 18-month data submission requirement for cancer registries; and developing tariffs for cancer that encourage adoption of best practice and reward activities which deliver efficiencies.

The NAO has the full Delivering the Cancer Reform Strategy report.

18th November 2010

From: Healthcare

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