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UK cancer strategy launched

The Department of Health has announced the launch of a strategy to help deliver improved cancer outcomes as part of planned NHS reforms

The Department of Health (DH) has announced the launch of a strategy to help deliver improved cancer outcomes as part of planned NHS reforms.

'Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer' states that, in the field of cancer care, 'outcomes for patients in England continue to lag behind those in countries of comparable wealth'.

The paper suggests plans for the NHS, government and the public to both prevent the development of cancer and to improve the quality of cancer care to help disease outcomes in England match those of other European countries.

The DH claims these initiatives could save an extra 5,000 lives a year in England by 2014/15.

More than £750m has been set aside for the strategy over the next four years, with key tasks including a greater number of screenings and the encouragement of healthier lifestyles to reduce incidents of preventable cancer.

Late diagnosis of the disease was singled out as a main concern however, with Professor Sir Mike Richards, the national clinical director for cancer, stating: "We know the main reason our survival rates lag behind other countries is because too many people are diagnosed late. This is why our strategy focuses on earlier diagnosis which we will achieve through raising the public's awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and also providing better access to diagnostic tests."

The strategy outlines plans for government plans to invest over £450m in improving early diagnosis of cancer. This will allow GPs increased access to primary diagnostic tests, as well as increased testing in secondary care, such as chest x-rays and MRI brain scans.

Extra investment will also be available for Public Health England, the public health body proposed in the government's White Paper 'Healthy lives, healthy people'. The agency will aim to develop and encourage raising awareness for the signs of cancer, as well as the promotion of screenings.

"Our ambition is simple, to deliver survival rates among the best in Europe and this strategy outlines how we will make our first steps towards this," said Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. "The coalition government's reforms of health and care services will drive improvements in what matters most to patients and their families – cancer outcomes."

According to the DH, over 250,000 people in England are diagnosed with cancer every year, with around 130,000 deaths annually.

Its economic impact is significant too, with estimates that NHS expenditure in cancer during 2008/09 was around £5.1bn, with total financial cost of cancer to society as a whole estimated at £18.3bn for the same year.

The DH has 'Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer' available for download.

12th January 2011

From: Healthcare

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