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A faulty production line

Government pledges extra £300m a year for diagnostics to meet new four-week cancer target

The Government will invest an additional £300m in NHS diagnostics every year by 2020 in order to meet a new four-week cancer diagnosis target, the health secretary has announced.

The Department of Health (DH) said the additional money – part of the £8bn funding for the NHS announced by the chancellor in April – would be used to train 200 more staff in performing endoscopies by 2018.

This is on top of an extra 250 gastroenterologists the Government has already committed to training, and will mean over half a million more endoscopy tests will be carried out on the NHS by 2020, the DH said.

The new target aims to guarantee patients a definitive diagnosis - or the all-clear - within four weeks of being referred by their GP, while the existing two-week urgent referral pathway is to be phased out.

The Government said it would also introduce new measures to help personalise patients’ treatment and long-term care for cancer, in line with recommendations from the recent Independent Cancer Taskforce report.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new four-week target would help give peace of mind to those without cancer sooner, enable people with a diagnosis to start treatment more quickly and ‘save thousands of lives as a result’.

Mr Hunt added: ‘We’re making this investment as part of our ambition to lead the world in cancer survival.’

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK chief executive and chair of the Cancer Taskforce, said services for diagnosis cancer were currently ‘under immense pressure’ and that ‘introducing the 28-day ambition for patients to receive a diagnosis will maximise the impact of this investment’.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Oh goody, another target to beat us up with.

    I should've been a ruddy Dentist.

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  • Wonder why he's in a permanent delusional state ? Maybe it's just the power that's giving him the highs. Whatever - he lost credibility a long time ago but is blissfully unaware of this and the sooner he stops this gibberish of new targets, the better for society as a whole.

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) While it is very correct(not politically this time) to say the time to reach a cancer diagnosis should be sooner than our present situation , it also begs a serious question ,'exactly how much more funding is needed?' or more precisely ,'how much is this government willing to pay to provide a real solution?'
    (2) If you look at the latest OECD figures on how much of the GDP had been attributed to health spending (July 2015) in various countries , you will have serious doubt on the intentions of this government . The average health spending as a share of GDP was 8.9%. As all top ten countries are in double figures , UK was situated outside top 20 (at 22)with 8.5% only.
    (3) Time and time again, politicians identify a weakness in a system and escalate the issue to a political agenda with spin power . And then a 'saviour' is created with a quick-fixed , over-simplistic , pseudo-passionate solution .Target setting is part of this ball game . '£300 million investment in cancer diagnosis' is very eye pleasing and certainly grabs the headline , especially in those government's propaganda media. Obviously nobody is to mention the preset condition of 22 billion pounds efficiency saving in the background.
    (4) I suppose this reaching an earlier cancer diagnosis will be easily exploited by the health secretary to support the government's mad obsession of 7 days NHS (with no definition). While the argument ,of spreading the existing five days resources too thin to cover seven , still sustains , the government only cares about earning its reputation fast and furious .
    (5) Reading the latest BMJ editorial on 10/9/15 , I support an open minded approach to find solution(s) to improve this genuine 'weekend' effect on hospital deaths ( in fact , Monday and Friday matters as well, read below ) . But clearly jumping conclusion , 'passionately' saying seven days opening is the solution , runs a serious risk of jeopardising all the other services on current five day running .

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  • Vinci Ho

    From BMJ editorial 10/9/2015;

    The weekend effect is real, concludes Helen Crump in her review of the evidence (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4473). Paul Aylin confirms this in his Editorial but explains that we are left with a range of possible explanations (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4652). These need to be scrutinised before assumptions and suggestions harden into policy. The evidence is conflicting but seems to point more to the importance of a fully functioning service than to simply needing more senior medical cover. One study found no weekend effect on intensive care units, which have more consistent staffing levels. Another found that the weekend effect was not reduced if stroke specialists did ward rounds seven days a week but was affected by the level of nurse staffing. This link between nurse staffing and overall hospital mortality has been reproduced, says Aylin, in a recent very large European study.

    Whether the right answer is more senior medical cover or an overall improvement in staffing levels at weekends, the cost is likely to be substantial, as Martin McKee points out, possibly exceeding the cost per quality adjusted life year threshold set by NICE (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4723).

    Clearly something needs to be done to reduce the risk of death in patients admitted to hospital at weekends. But using these data to beat up on senior doctors, most of whom already work at weekends, is neither constructive nor evidence based. We need a dispassionate look at the existing evidence, a focused effort to improve the evidence base, and a collaborative debate about the best response.

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  • Honestly, I do not know who comes up with this. Could it be that the "weekend effect" is actually due to patients delaying presenting until the weekend? Why do patients who present during the week do so much better? Could it be that they have prioritized their health over other factors? Could it be that those who present on weekends have delayed their presentation and hence are a lot worse? Maybe it is about what happens before they are seen and not what happens after they are seen. Anecdotally I can say that the patients I have seen on weekends have delayed their presentation and are worse than those I see during the week. It is about decisions the patient makes, not about the level of care they receive. But what would I know? I am only a GP

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  • Maybe I've been in the NHS too long but £300m no long sounds like a lot of money to me. With 155 acute trusts in the country, this equates to just under £2m each. By the time you've trimmed this for the admin that will go into commissioning the change, and top sliced a risk share, removed NHS pensions and on costs etc, this will be piddly.

    Oh, and we have a provider sector deficit forecast at £2bn. Guess where this will all end up.

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  • And how many trusts are breaching on 2ww and 18ww currently? What will it cost to get them on target?

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  • As above in the big scheme of things 300million is peanuts.But I suppose it makes a good soundbite.

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  • where do they get these estimated costs from. sometimes I think Jeremy just pulls figures out of his ho--[comment removed by moderator]

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  • 4 week to diagnosis, yet still no target for treatment. In my previous locality, people were told within 2 weeks they had malignant melanoma, yet were waiting up to 4 months so get it removed! scandal.

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