NHS announces reform of cancer standards

The ten cancer standards currently in use by the NHS are to be consolidated into three, with the aim of reflecting “what matters most to patients” and to align with modern clinical practice. Ultimately, it is hoped that the consolidation will facilitate faster diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The three performance standards specify that patients suspected of cancer who have been referred for urgent GP checks, screening programmes or another route diagnosed within 28 days; patients referred for suspected cancer who go on to receive a diagnosis should start treatment within 62 days of their referral; and patients with a confirmed cancer diagnosis who have made a decision on their first choice of treatment should start that treatment within 31 days.

Whilst GPs will continue to refer patients with suspected cancer in the same way, their focus will be on diagnosing or ruling out cancer within 28 days, versus securing a first appointment.

The three agreed standards will come into effect from October, having been identified as “the best measures to ensure patients are being seen and treated as quickly as possible” – with an overarching aim to provide a “clear focus for NHS trusts delivering vital care.”

Dr Richard Roope, cancer advisor for the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that “the changes in the NHS England cancer standards will simplify the monitoring of the time taken to reach a cancer diagnosis”, adding that “the changes also reflect what matters to patients and their families – the outcomes, rather than measuring the process, which has been the case previously.”

Last month, the Scottish government announced they would be investing a further £9 million into their partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to help cancer patients and their families with the emotional, financial and physical health effects of the disease.

In related news, Newcastle’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) was granted £2,719,297 to allow new treatments to be developed and to improve existing treatments. The funding was made possibly due to a collaboration between Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and the Little Princess Trust.