The Government’s new four-week cancer waiting standard will be introduced from April 2018 in a move to save an extra 5,000 lives over the next two years, NHS chiefs have announced.
NHS England said the target – to guarantee patients get a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear from cancer within 28 days of referral for suspected cancer by their GP – will start next year, following a drive to expand diagnostic capacity this year. The target was originally announced two years ago and will replace the current urgent two-week wait referral standard, which is to be phased out.
Trusts will also be offered extra performance incentives this year, to tackle poor achievement of the 62-day treatment target – which has now been missed nationally for the past three years.
NHS England said cancer survival rates are ‘at a record high, with an estimated 7,000-pus more people surviving cancer after NHS treatment compared with three years earlier’, but that with the ageing population ‘it is essential we expand diagnostic capacity’.
The commitments were outlined in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View delivery plan, and will also see GPs start referring to new multidisciplinary ‘Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres’ this year.
These centres – part of the early diagnosis drive announced with publication of the Cancer Task Force report – will allow GPs to refer people with vague or complex sets of symptoms for a number of different tests to be done all on the same day. NHS England said 10 sites will be up and running across the country by March 2018.
The delivery plan stated that NHS England will ‘expand diagnostic capacity so that England is meeting all eight of the cancer waiting standards, compared to seven out of eight today’ and that this will ‘focus specifically on the cancer 62-day from referral to treatment standard ahead of the introduction of the new standard to give patients a definitive diagnosis within 28 days by 2020’.
It continued: ‘Performance incentives for achievement of the cancer 62-day waiting standard will be applied to extra funding available to our cancer alliances.’
The report added that by March 2018, NHS England will ‘introduce 10 new multi-disciplinary Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres across England, and by March 2019, rollout Centres in each of the 16 cancer alliances’.