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Give cancer patients a definitive diagnosis within 28 days by 2020

Last updated: 10:17am 11 July 2019

In cancer services, we will deliver the new promise to give patients a definitive diagnosis within 28 days by 2020…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.69

Our verdict

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:

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.

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