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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’.