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gp-with-folderJuly 22 2015

Faster GP referral for earlier cancer diagnosis could help an additional 11,000 cancer patients survive cancer each year, the Independent Cancer Taskforce has proposed. When combined with the five other priorities, an additional 30,000 patients every year could survive cancer for 10 years or more by 2020.

In proposals put forward to NHS England, the ICT describes an “ambition” that by 2020, 95% of patients referred for testing by a GP either would be definitively diagnosed with cancer or have cancer ruled out, and that patients would get this result within four weeks.

“This requires a significant increase in diagnostic capacity, giving GPs direct access to key investigative tests, and the testing of new models which could reduce the burden and reliance on GPs,” says NHS England. “Currently, patients urgently referred for suspected cancer by their GP need to be seen by a specialist within 14 days of referral, but no guidance exists for when patients can expect to get the results.”

Alongside faster GP referrals, the priority areas and ambitions which will “help the NHS achieve world class cancer outcomes” include:

  • a radical upgrade in prevention and public health, including a national action plan on obesity and a new tobacco control strategy to cut smoking from 18.4% currently, to less than 13% by 2020;
  • patient experience being on a par with clinical effectiveness and safety, so that all consenting patients have electronic access to all test results and other communications involving further care by 2020, as well as having access to a clinical nurse specialist or other key worker to help coordinate their care;
  • transformation in support for people living with and beyond cancer including having access to elements of a ‘Recovery Package’, with a national quality of life metric in place to ensure better support for people after treatment has ended;
  • investment to deliver a modern high-quality service; and
  • overhauled processes for commissioning, accountability and provision, with most treatment being commissioned at population sizes above CCG level with a network of Cancer Alliances being established across the country from 2016.

Responding to the report, Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Chair, said an average GP might see eight new cases of cancer for every 8,000 patient consultations. “The Taskforce report outlines a number of recommendations, which if implemented properly – and resourced appropriately - have the potential to save thousands of lives,” she added.

“We have a severe shortage of family doctors and the access we currently have to diagnostic tools is completely inadequate, so we particularly welcome the drive to give GPs better access to relevant scanners – something that the College has long been calling for.

“Anything that can be done to lower patients’ anxiety and any undue distress when they have – or might have – cancer should be encouraged, so we also support the aspiration to provide patients with their test results within four weeks.

“However, we realise that the system is already overloaded and we must ensure that there is sufficient imaging and specialist capacity to cope with the increased number of referrals, before promises are made to patients that cannot be delivered.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said PHE will “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.”

Dr Steve Kell, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, added: “NHSCC will now work with NHS England to ensure commissioners are able to improve cancer care. It is essential that we understand the financial implications of the recommendations and what they mean for how we work as local systems to improve services and capacity.”

Links:

NHS England announcement        

Cancer Research UK Cancer taskforce    

RCGP response     

NHSCC response    

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