Press release -

Department of Health (National): Cancer strategy could save 5,000 lives a year

Detailed plans to transform cancer care in England and save thousands of extra lives each year were announced today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Overall these plans will drive up England’s cancer survival rates so that by 2014/15 an extra 5,000 lives will be saved every year.

Improving Outcomes – A Strategy for Cancer, sets out how the Government, NHS and public can prevent cancer, improve the quality and efficiency of cancer services and move towards achieving outcomes which rival the best in Europe.

The Strategy – backed with more than £750 million over four years – sets out a range of actions to improve cancer outcomes, including:

  • diagnosing cancer earlier;
  • helping people to live healthier lives to reduce preventable cancers;
  • screening more people;
  • introducing new screening programmes; and
  • making sure that all patients have access to the best possible treatment, care and support.

Health Secretary Andrew 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 – 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.”

Central to these plans is an investment of more than £450 million to increase earlier diagnosis. This money will fund increased GP access to diagnostic tests and more testing and treatment in secondary care. It will also go towards Public Health England – the new public health service - to promote screening and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Over the Spending Review period, this will allow for primary care access to over two million extra tests, in addition to funding increased testing and treatment in secondary care. Tests include:

- chest x ray – to aid in diagnosing lung cancer;

- non-obstetric ultrasound – to support the diagnosis of ovarian and other cancers;

- flexible sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy – to support the diagnosis of bowel cancer; and

- MRI brain scans – to support the diagnosis of brain cancer.

In addition, the Government will provide extra investment to increase access to radiotherapy and ensure all patients are able to get this critical treatment.

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“We are committed to updating the NHS to make it more patient centred. This strategy shows how this will work for our cancer services.

“This Strategy rejects the top-down approach of the past which has stifled innovation and creativity. Instead it focuses on how patients can be empowered and on how clinicians on the frontline can be supported to deliver excellence for all.”

Improving Outcomes – A Strategy for Cancer, is the first of a number of outcomes strategies to be published following on from the White Paper, Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS.

Outcomes strategies will play a crucial role in translating the underpinning principles of the Coalition Government’s reforms of the health and care services into the steps it needs to take to drive improvements health outcomes; putting patients and the public first, empowering professionals and strengthening local accountability .

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the National 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.”

Other plans outlined include:

- supporting commissioners by improving the information available on cancer services and the outcomes they deliver;

- improving the information patients receive about the services and treatments available;

- promoting the uptake of the latest surgical procedures and reducing regional variation in access to treatment;

- stimulating community action through the development of a national partnership scheme;

- accelerating work to incentivise payments, including the development of tariffs for chemotherapy and radiotherapy;

- piloting a national cancer survivorship survey in 2011;

- piloting data collection on the number of women with secondary breast cancer;

- implementing HPV testing as triage for women with mild or borderline cervical screening test results; and

- supporting cancer research through providing £4.7 million funding from this month for five years for a policy research unit on cancer awareness, screening and early diagnosis.

Also published today is a review of the current cancer waiting times which confirms that on current evidence these are clinically justified and have been beneficial to patients. The standards will therefore be maintained without change.

The Strategy and related documents can be downloaded at


Notes to editors

  1. For media enquiries only contact the Department of Health newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.
  1. Outcomes strategies set out how the NHS, public health and social care services will contribute to the ambitions for progress agreed with the Secretary of State in each of the high-level outcomes frameworks.
  1. The launch of Improving Outcomes – A Strategy for Cancer follows plans announced over the first six months of the Coalition Government, including:
  • Improving the cervical cancer screening programme by the roll-out of HPV triage;
  • Investment of £25 million in 2011/12 to begin improving primary case access to key diagnostic tests;
  • Raising cancer awareness, through a £10.75 million signs and symptoms campaign, which will focus on breast, lung and bowel cancers;
  • Increasing detection through a revolutionary new bowel cancer screening technology flexible sigmoidoscopy – saving 3,000 lives a year;
  • Providing cutting-edge cancer therapies, through our commitment to invest £50 million in additional cancer drugs this year and a £200 million per year for a Cancer Drugs Fund until the end of 2013;
  • Boosting the number of specialists, by committing the funding needed to deliver 1,200 additional specialists involved in cancer services by 2012; and
  • Introducing better treatment, by expanding radiotherapy capacity by investing around £50 million more over the Spending Review period so that all high priority patients with a need for proton beam therapy get access to this cutting edge treatment.


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