Health secretary guarantees funding of NHS cancer networks from 2013

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Health secretary Andrew Lansley has announced that the government will fund England's 28 cancer networks - key teams of cancer experts that advise and support GPs and hospitals - beyond 2012.

There were concerns about the long-term future of the networks, as the government had previously refused to guarantee funding beyond 2011-12.

But during a speech at the launch of the Anglia Cancer Network's 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign, Mr Lansley said that the networks will be funded in 2012-13, and that the NHS Commissioning Board will support strengthened cancer networks in the future.

He said: "Over the last decade, cancer networks and clinical networks in other areas of care have had a crucial role, taking the lead in the development of great advances in treatments, promoting excellence and improving outcomes.

"I am determined that we build more clinical leadership into designing services, bringing together new clinically-led commissioning consortia with colleagues in specialties across medical, nursing and health professions, to design services that meet quality, choice and outcome objectives."

Mr Lansley added: "We are listening to the views of clinicians in the field and will respond by ensuring that, through the reforms, the role of a broad range of clinical networks is centre stage to how clinical services are designed."

Care services minister Paul Burstow insisted that the government "fully recognises the value of cancer networks to both doctors and patients" and had listened to concerns about their long-term future.

He said: "We've listened to those concerns and used the 'pause' in the health and social care bill to go back to the drawing board and guarantee that cancer networks will now be maintained beyond 2013."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's director of policy, commented: "We are delighted that Andrew Lansley has listened to the concerns of cancer charities and health professionals and guaranteed the future of cancer networks. They will have a vital role to play - supporting the commissioning of key cancer services and encouraging integrated working in a reformed NHS.

"For this to happen, it's important that they are appropriately funded so they can effectively support cancer services through the reforms. Networks will also want to prioritise the early diagnosis of cancer in their areas as the government has committed to saving 5,000 additional lives each year by 2014 through early diagnosis of cancer."