Early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of successfully treating cancer. The existing target for NHS England is that no patient should wait more than 62 days between an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of treatment. That target has never been attained for all patients – in April 2019 only “79.4% of people treated began first definitive treatment within 62 days”.
This policy is a promise to introduce a new, different standard, providing a “definitive diagnosis within 28 days”.
Under this government, there has been significant movement towards introducing the new standard, including:
- New diagnostic tests
- Rapid diagnostic and assessment centres
- New cancer waiting times monitoring system
- Five pilot sites for the new 28-day standard
In addition, the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, commits to introducing the new standard as one of its “milestones for cancer” and outlines various mechanisms to help deliver and support 28-day diagnosis.
These developments demonstrate that this pledge is ‘in progress’, but the manifesto says government will “deliver the new promise…by 2020” so we must wait until then before reaching a final verdict. We’ll keep tracking, so follow this policy to stay informed.
Get the details
- Cancer waiting times – NHS England
- NHS Long Term Plan – NHS
- Diagnosing cancer earlier and faster – NHS England
- Overview: Cancer – NHS
- Information and support – MacMillan Cancer Support
- Cancer waiting times – Cancer Research UK
- Cancer waiting times, 2009 to 2018 – Nuffield Trust
- Cancer mortality rates – Nuffield Trust