Britain's Triple Cancer Failure; Care Is STILL a Postcode Lottery; Wait Times Hit 7-Year High; Cancer Fund Drugs Axed

Daily Mail (London), March 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Britain's Triple Cancer Failure; Care Is STILL a Postcode Lottery; Wait Times Hit 7-Year High; Cancer Fund Drugs Axed


Byline: Sophie Borland and Jenny Hope

SERIOUS failings in NHS care for cancer patients have been laid bare by three separate reports.

They reveal waiting times for scans are at their highest in seven years, there is an 'unacceptable' postcode lottery in treatment and how Britain spends far less on new drugs than elsewhere in the Western world.

Today the NHS will also announce which life-extending medications will be axed from its Cancer Drugs Fund because they are too expensive.

Meanwhile GPs in the South of England have complained that NHS managers are delaying patients from having cancer tests to meet waiting times targets.

As MPs warned that cancer care on the NHS had been 'diluted' and was 'going backwards', a string of reports revealed how:

A total of 18,740 patients in January waited longer than six weeks for tests to diagnose cancer. The figure from Public Health England represents a 40 per cent increase in a year and the highest number since February 2008.

There is 'unacceptable' and 'unexplained' variation in cancer detection and treatment across England - particularly for the elderly.

Evidence emerged showing the NHS spends less on new cancer treatments than the US, Spain, Germany and Scotland.

The report by data analysts blamed NICE, the medications rationing body, for turning down too many drugs which are not deemed 'cost- effective'.

Not all the patients waiting for screening, such as CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds, will have cancer. However, it is crucial diagnosis happens as quickly as possible so any tumours found can be removed or treated before they spread.

Britain has one of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe and this has partly been blamed on late diagnosis as well as lack of availability of effective treatments.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee warned of a postcode lottery in cancer detection and treatment across England.

MPs were particularly concerned about the care for older patients - the group most at risk of cancer - who are often denied chemotherapy or surgery as they are thought to be too frail.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is chairman of the committee, said that despite the increasing numbers being diagnosed with cancer, the money being ploughed into the services had declined.

'Focus on cancer has also been diluted at a local level,' she said, adding: 'It is unacceptable that NHS England does not understand the reasons why access to treatment and survival rates are considerably poorer for older people. …

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