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NHS England to replace cancer targets

The two-week wait cancer target should be scrapped and replaced with a different measure, as part of an overhaul of cancer standards, NHS England has said.

After piloting a new measure which aims to see 75% of patients given the all-clear or a diagnosis within 28 days of referral, NHS England has recommended .The new “faster diagnosis target” would replace the current ‘two-week wait’ target, which is for 93% to have seen a specialist within two weeks, but not necessarily had a diagnosis.

This proposal, and other changes to the way cancer waiting time targets are organised, will be consulted on until 6 April.

The nine current cancer targets were created in 2000. The current headline measure along with the two-week wait — a two-month wait from urgent GP referral to first treatment — has not been hit since December 2015.

The document containing the proposals said the current two-week standard saw some patients given an appointment at which no test was taken, purely to hit the target. For some suspected cancers, “many trusts… offer outpatient appointments to ensure they hit the target”, without improving diagnosis.

The move to scrap the two-week wait was welcomed – with significant caveats — by Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “The new Faster Diagnosis Standard is a more meaningful target than the current two-week wait that will hopefully improve early diagnosis. If all trusts met the 75 per cent target, it would be an improvement to where we are now. However, in the long-term to improve cancer survival, we’d like to see a 95 per cent target originally proposed in the 2015 cancer strategy in Sajid Javid’s upcoming 10-year plan for cancer.

“We recognise the target was set lower because of a shortage of cancer specialists, critical to diagnosing cancer across the NHS. The government must provide the extra investment they have promised to grow the NHS workforce. Every moment of delay risks more people waiting for diagnosis and treatment.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 10 March 2022


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