Cancer strategy aims to save 30,000 more lives

20 Jul 15

A new cancer strategy for England aims to save an additional 30,000 lives by the end of the decade through a series of care improvements and a renewed focus on public health initiatives.

The Achieving world-class cancer outcomes plan stated there was a need to radically upgrade cancer prevention through public health, funding for which is devolved to councils.

According to the five-year plan, it could lead to 30,000 more patients surviving cancer for 10 years or more by 2020.

In particular, the strategy called on NHS England and Public Health England to work with government to adopt a new tobacco control strategy within the next 12 months, and a national action plan on obesity.

It also stated that local health and wellbeing boards needed to work with councils, local health services, communities and charities to develop local prevention strategies.

These should address the major social and environmental determinants of ill health, the report stated, and help individuals make healthier choices around risk factors including smoking, alcohol, diet and physical activity.

Partners should work together to ensure approaches are tailored to the local community, and appropriately target specific groups where certain cancer types are particularly prominent.

The strategy also set what it called a “national ambition” to achieve earlier diagnosis, with a target of 95% of patients referred for initial tests receiving a definitive result within four weeks by 2020.

Harpal Kumar, chair of the Independent Cancer Taskforce that developed the plan, said there was an opportunity to save many thousands of lives from cancer every year.

“Three previous cancer strategies did a great job of setting England on the path to a world class cancer service. But we are a long way from where we should be. Our expectation is that the government and NHS will now make the investments required and implement this strategy with commitment and speed.”

Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie added that four in ten cancers were preventable, but concerted action was needed on risk factors like smoking, alcohol and diet.

“The Cancer Taskforce rightly state that we need a radical upgrade in prevention and public health,” he said.

“PHE plays a critical role in the national response to cancer, including providing the data and intelligence on which the NHS depends, and we warmly welcome the taskforce’s report. We look forward to considering the recommendations, especially the action plans to reduce smoking and tackle obesity, in detail, and working with our partners to realise the vision of a society that is serious about prevention.”

The report also called for commissioning processes to be overhauled in the NHS, with greater clarity on how CCGs should work with local providers, and for a national investment plan for both new radiotherapy machines and for the government’s Cancer Drugs Fund.

A National Cancer Team should be created to oversee the delivery of the strategy, the taskforce recommended.

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