NHS England launches four-year action plan for cancer care

New strategy for earlier diagnosis and better treatment of cancer patients

A plan to save thousands of lives through earlier cancer diagnosis, treatment and care, has been unveiled today by NHS England.

The Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: Taking the strategy forward report has been welcomed as a comprehensive plan for specialist cancer nursing. It sets out the actions needed for delivering the independent Cancer Taskforce 2015-2020 strategy, published last July. The taskforce estimates 30,000 lives can be saved each year by 2020 through earlier diagnosis and better treatment and care. 

In the report, focus is given to investing in modern, high quality services; developing a future workforce vision for patient-centred cancer service, and supporting people living beyond cancer.

Key actions include:

• A £15 million fund for a major programme of work to support faster cancer diagnosis.

• The formation of Cancer Alliances made up of clinical and other local leaders from different health and care settings. These alliances will review all data for their areas – including survival, early diagnosis rates, treatment outcomes, patient experience and quality of life – and use it to pinpoint targets for local improvement.

• An integrated ‘dashboard’ for cancer, also launched today, brings all available NHS data together in one place. It will also include data on patient experience to start conversations locally through Cancer Alliances and ensure improvements are made if needed.

NHS England cancer director Cally Palmer, who led the strategy, said: ‘This is an ambitious plan which, over the next four years, provides us with an exciting opportunity to make a real difference to cancer patients everywhere.’

Nurse and Allied Health Professionals research fellow Carole Farrell, said: ‘This is a comprehensive plan to improve all aspects of cancer care. It sets the context for high quality clinical nursing care, promoting evidence-based practice and prioritising patients’ experiences and quality of life.

‘It sets standards and recommendations, which will provide key benchmarks for future service development. Moreover, it emphasises the importance of specialist nurses in promoting positive patient experiences, recommending that all patients should have access to a specialist nurse.’

However, Ms Farrell expressed concern that without additional funding to develop specialist nurse posts ‘existing services will be squeezed even tighter, and public expectations will become unrealistic regarding what the NHS can safely deliver for patients with cancer and their families’.

Tracie Miles, specialist gynaecological cancer information nurse for charity The Eve Appeal, said: 'Cancer nurses are at the heart of delivering excellent patient care, and as cancer nurse specialists we navigate the whole cancer journey for and with our patients. This strategy covers all elements of the patient journey, and gives nurses an opportunity to implement improvements on every level.'

The strategy can be read here