New cancer strategy focuses on earlier diagnosis and improved access to treatment
The coalition government has published its new cancer strategy, which aims to save 5,000 lives a year by facilitating earlier diagnosis and improving access to life-saving therapies.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley unveiled details of the strategy, 'Improving Outcomes - A Strategy for Cancer', which will be supported by more than £750 million of funding over the next four years.
The plans are designed to drive up England's cancer survival rates so that they match the best in Europe, saving an extra 5,000 lives every year by 2014-15.
Mr Lansley said: "Cancer affects us all. Everyone will have a story of someone they love battling the disease. In those instances we all need to know that the NHS will be there for us.
"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.
"The coalition government's reforms of health and care services will drive improvements in what matters most to patients and their families - including cancer outcomes. Our commitment is to save 5,000 extra lives a year from 2014-15 and that is what we will be measuring our success against."
One of the key actions will be to increase earlier diagnosis, backed by the provision of more than £450 million over four years to Public Health England.
This will enable the new public health service to promote the NHS screening programmes and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
Money will also go towards increasing access to diagnostic tests at GP surgeries and providing more testing and treatment in secondary care, including greater provision of radiotherapy.
Other plans outlined in the strategy document include promoting the uptake of the latest surgical procedures, reducing regional variation in access to treatment, the development of tariffs for chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and pilots of a national cancer survivorship survey and the collection of data on women with secondary breast cancer.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, England's clinical director for cancer, said: "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.
"But improving outcomes for people with cancer isn't just about improving survival rates. It is also about improving patients' experience of care and the quality of life for cancer survivors and our strategy also sets out how that will be tackled."
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "We warmly welcome the new commitment set out in this strategy, to deliver survival rates among the best in Europe and to save an extra 5,000 lives per year within this parliament.
"Diagnosing cancer earlier will be the key driver in achieving these aims, and the additional investment made available for this is critical. The government now needs to ensure that this new investment flows through and is quickly taken up by frontline services.
"More than one in three people will get cancer at some point in their lives. Getting cancer diagnosed as early as possible and ensuring that all patients have quick access to the best, targeted treatments are issues that we have campaigned on and will save more lives in the future."