Speaking at the Britain Against Cancer conference yesterday (14th December) the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, outlined plans which will see thousands of patients benefit from better cancer services and outcomes thanks to the Government’s NHS reforms.
Late diagnosis is widely accepted as the main reason for England’s survival rates for many cancers lagging behind the EU average.
As part of a raft of measures to improve earlier diagnosis, funding of over £25 million will be made available in 2011/12 to help GPs get direct access to additional tests for cancer.
The additional money, which will fund up to 150,000 extra tests, will mean GPs will also be able to begin to have access to:
- Brain MRI scans – to support the diagnosis of brain cancer;
- non-obstetric ultrasound – to support the diagnosis of ovarian cancer; and
- flexible sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy – to support the diagnosis of bowel cancer
The Government plans to publish a strategy to improve cancer outcomes in the New Year. That strategy will set out plans to build on this initial plan to give GPs better access to cancer diagnostics.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:
“A typical GP may see only eight or nine new patients with cancer every year, but they may see hundreds presenting with symptoms that could be cancer.
“So we need to give them the support, the resources and the authority they need to reduce delays in diagnosis. And that includes fast and direct access to the right diagnostic tests.”
So what do we make of this at brainstrust?
Well, definitely a step in the right direction – great news! However, with the symptoms of brain cancer often non-specific (ie, ‘headache’), GPs will still be in a difficult situation. With ‘only’ 150,000 extra tests available to screen for ovarian, bowel and brain cancers can they really afford to send everyone with a headache to their nearest MRI scanner?