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Let's beat cancer sooner

Last week NHS England, along with a range of other organisations involved in the NHS, published its future plans for the NHS – called the Five Year Forward View. In doing so, it sets out a vision for how the NHS must change to meet new challenges – such as people living longer, with complex health issues – and to make sure patients get the best care possible.

In it, the new Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, sets out his plans for the NHS – and the signs are encouraging. Even the media agrees, with many seeing the report as a bold vision for the future of the NHS, written not by politicians, but by the people running the health service itself.

And with a focus on both preventing cancers and diagnosing them early, on research and innovation, and a specific ambition to improve things for for cancer patients, we also think that this is a positive development.

Stevens highlights the need for more investment in the NHS – something we have been calling for with regard to cancer services in particular.

So here is a bit more about what the new report says, and what it means for people affected by cancer – both now and in the future.


What’s really noticeable is the emphasis the report places on prevention – calling for “a radical upgrade in prevention and public health”.

The report’s plans to tackle smoking, obesity and alcohol are all encouraging – we know that 4 in 10 cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes.

And we’re particularly pleased to see a commitment to providing high quality services to help smokers quit, as smoking remains the single biggest cause of cancer in the UK.

Early diagnosis and access to treatments

Stevens believes that the NHS can increase the proportion of patients diagnosed with early stage cancer by 10 per cent over the next five years – equivalent to 8,000 more patients. This would make a big difference as we know that the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better chance of surviving.

And it also would likely save the NHS money – as we recently showed, cancers diagnosed earlier cost less to treat.

But increasing survival from cancer also means that patients must be able to get the best treatments, so we were really pleased to see a commitment to tackle the variation in getting access to radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy. In fact, just this year we worked with NHS England to create a 10 year vision for radiotherapy – so we hope that this will be included in these plans to ensure patients get the best treatments possible..

Research and innovation

The report places a lot of emphasis on research and innovation and, as a charity dedicated to saving lives through research, this is great to hear.

By ensuring the NHS embraces research and accelerates adoption of innovations we can get better treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

And we were really pleased to see that transparency of data and outcomes is an important part of this vision. This information is vital to continue making improvements in NHS cancer care.

What next?

A lot of what is set out in this report can be put in to action by NHS England itself, working alongside partner organisations such as Public Health England.

But in terms of investment in the NHS, this ultimately is up to the politicians. We all know that there’s general election coming up in May 2015 – we’ve set out our priorities to Cross Out Cancer here. The new NHS report clearly sets out what must happen in terms of the increased funding needed to ensure the NHS is the best it can be – it’s up to the political parties to work out where to find the money from.

But overall, we’re really encouraged by the bold nature of the Five Year Forward View – and we hope that this becomes a reality so that our cancer outcomes can match the best in the world.


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Image credit: NHS paper bike by Nick Lobnitz, via Flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. 

Emlyn Samuel is a senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK