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Written on 16th February 2022 by Richard Money-Kyrle

The government is calling for evidence, opinions and ideas from individuals and organisations to help develop its 10-Year Cancer Plan for England.

Recognising cancer as the biggest cause of death from disease in this country, the consultation document says further progress is needed if England’s cancer services are to match the best of higher performing countries in Europe and recover from the pandemic. The Health Secretary’s foreword to the consultation says that it is time to ‘declare a national war on cancer’ and that this call for evidence marks the start of the government’s 10-Year Cancer Plan and the government’s  new vision for this country to lead the world in cancer care. The consultation asks for people to contribute their opinions and ideas on how this should happen, rather than setting out specific proposals of its own.

What does the 10-Year Cancer Plan consultation say?

The consultation suggests that the government intends the 10-Year Cancer Plan for England to focus on key areas which it believes can improve cancer care services, save lives and reduce the impact of cancer on the NHS. Key areas of focus include:  

  • Prevention – targeting awareness of risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, and the benefits of screening and HPV vaccination;
  • Earlier diagnosis – enabling more people with cancer to receive a diagnosis and treatment at an earlier stage;
  • delivering more personalised care to people with cancer to improve quality of life and follow-up care after treatment;
  • reducing disparities in cancer outcomes which are disproportionately worse for people in deprived areas;
  • boosting the cancer workforce;
  • building on the pandemic experience to increase innovation in diagnostics and treatments, use of technology and intensify research on vaccines for cancer.

Earlier diagnosis and treatment

The consultation recognises that diagnosing cancer earlier is one of the most effective things that the NHS could do to  improve survival rates amongst people with cancer. Patients who are diagnosed when the cancer is at stage 1 or 2 have the best chance of treatment providing a cure and leading to long-term survival. Early diagnosis also increases treatment options leading to better treatment outcomes.

The existing Long Term Plan for the NHS has a goal to increase the proportion of cancer diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 to 75% of cancer cases. Achieving this goal by 2028 would mean that 55,000 more people each year would then survive their cancer for at least five years after diagnosis.

The government claims that ‘overall cancer treatment has been maintained at 94% of pre-pandemic levels, and 95% of people starting treatment have done so within a month’. This is because although cancer referrals and treatment dropped in spring 2020, since March 2021 GPs have been referring people with suspected cancer in record numbers.  However, despite the recent surge, the NHS has seen around 34,000 fewer suspected cancer patients than would normally have been expected, more cancers have been diagnosed at a later stage, and many people have had to wait too long for their diagnosis.

How can I have my say?

The easiest way to have your say is by completing the online survey on the government’s website before the call for evidence closes on 1st April 2022. The consultation is open to everyone aged 16 and over.  Whether you have had cancer and experienced NHS cancer care services,  have cared for a loved one with cancer or work for a charity or other organisation that supports cancer patients, we encourage you to take this opportunity to have your say.

The call for evidence includes questions about awareness and access to information about cancer signs and symptoms and experience of cancer treatment. Other questions ask for your opinions on what should be the priorities of the 10-Year Cancer Plan for England, and how the government can raise awareness, speed up diagnosis and improve access to cancer treatment.  They also ask for ideas about how to improve after-care and support services for cancer patients and their families. Other questions encourage ideas to maximise the impact of research and data and how they can make a difference to cancer care practice sooner.

The government says that the evidence gathered from this consultation this will help them develop the 10-Year Cancer Plan for England.  The government will respond to outcome of the call for evidence in the summer.

If you or a member of your family have suffered serious injury as a result of delayed or negligent cancer treatment, you can talk to one of our solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about making a claim by contacting us here.