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NHS cancer care under fire with new 'postcode lottery' warning

By Lilian Anekwe

Cancer services in England have come in for fierce criticism from two separate reports out today, amid warnings that patients are facing the 'worst kind of postcode lottery' when it comes to survival rates.

A Government report shows that one-year survival rates for cancer vary starkly depending on where a patient lives, with nine out of ten PCTs failing to match the best standards of care offered in Europe.

Only one of 152 trusts – NHS Telford and Wrekin – provided colorectal cancer care that was rated as ‘good'. The variation among primary care trusts was biggest for lung cancer survival, with patients in Herefordshire three times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis compared with patients in Kensington & Chelsea.

Professor Mike Richards, the Department of Health's cancer tsar who compiled the report, has called for more awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer amongst GPs and the public, and claims that this could save as many as 10,000 lives every year.

In a separate report, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer called for ‘radical reforms' of NHS targets on cancer diagnosis and survival to stop patient dying unnecessarily.

The group, which published its report after an eight month-inquiry into the reasons cancers go undiagnosed, is challenging the Government to adopt a new one-year cancer survival target in the run-up to the general election.

The target should be applied across the NHS for patients of all ages, to encourage patients to see their GP sooner, leading to more and earlier diagnoses.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘These shocking statistics confirm that the cancer postcode lottery remains a real problem.'

‘Patients are undoubtedly not being diagnosed early enough in large parts of the country, nor are they getting equal access to the best treatments, such as surgery for lung cancer.'

‘There is no excuse for such a big difference between different areas. This is the worst kind of postcode lottery. It's a disgrace that such a small proportion of PCTs have survival rates that match the best figures in Europe, or even the best rates in Europe ten years ago.'

‘This needs urgent action. We're pleased that the Department of Health have been bold enough to publish these figures. The NHS now needs to take them very seriously.'

The Department of Health has published new figures on cancer survival rates The Department of Health has published new figures on cancer survival rates

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