England Continues to Lag Behind on Cancer Care


A review by the Health Foundation suggests that England has failed to close the gap on the best-performing nations when it comes to cancer care despite 20 years of trying.

The independent charity, which is committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK, analysed the government’s record between 1995 and 2015. This showed that despite four strategies setting ambitious goals, the NHS was still lagging behind the best countries in cancer care and if services were improved, 10,000 lives could be saved each year.

The charity says that early detection and diagnosis of cancer is critical to improving a person’s chances of survival, as early-stage cancer is more responsive to treatment than late-stage cancer. Five-year survival for bowel cancer is over 90% if caught early, but less than 10% if diagnosed late.

To close the gap, there will have to be radical improvements in the early diagnosis and detection of cancer.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, former National Cancer Director, said: 

‘The NHS Cancer Plan in 2000 and all subsequent cancer strategies have set ambitions for England to match the best in Europe or the world in relation to cancer survival. Although progress has been made on many aspects of cancer, these aims have not been achieved. Every year thousands of deaths could be avoided if we achieved these goals. This is the equivalent to a jumbo jet of people falling from the sky every two weeks.

‘The Prime Minister’s ambitious target to increase early detection of cancer from one in two people today, to three in four by 2028, is welcome, but if we are serious about moving the dial on early diagnosis, then setting targets and handing out money will not be enough. The NHS must change the way that care is currently organised to make it easier for people to be seen and diagnosed as quickly as possible, as we know this gives them the best chance of survival.’

Ruth Thorlby, Assistant Director of Policy, said:

‘Our report highlights the importance of the infrastructure that needs to be in place to engage and support clinicians and managers to improve a complex service such as cancer. The disruption caused by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was profound, and financial pressure has compounded this. Although investment is clearly needed in workforce and equipment, the experience of the past 20 years in cancer shows that staff need support, evidence and skills to implement change. Without these, the injection of resources alone will not be effective.”

As reported by the BBC, NHS England is already piloting rapid diagnostic clinics. These are basically one-stop testing centres where patients can get access to a range of different specialists and procedures often on the same day.

However, until such time as more money and resources are made available, it is likely that delayed diagnosis of these fatal diseases will remain an issue for those in England.

Unfortunately, as Clinical Negligence lawyers in this field, Devonshires has seen first-hand what a delay in diagnosis can cause. As well as emotional trauma, it can cause death in many cases as well as financial hardship for those that are left behind.

Devonshires Clinical Negligence Team has experience in dealing with patients and their families after delay in diagnosis has led to injury and in serious cases, death.

If you or a family member has suffered as a result of a delay in diagnosis of cancer, and feel that this has caused an injury, we are here to help with the difficult process of seeking compensation.

If you wish to speak with one of our team, Karen Cathcart is a specialist lawyer with experience in these types of claims and can be contacted on 0207 880 4383 or at Karen.cathcart@devonshires.co.uk


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