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Brown plans private cancer care if referral deadlines missed

29 June 2009

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The government plans to give cancer patients facing long waits for NHS treatment cash to get private care.

Gordon Brown plans to reveal proposals for significantly more private sector involvement in healthcare as part of his attempts to strengthen his leadership position.

He will unveil his Building Britain’s Future document amid accusations of a climbdown after the prime minister’s previous opposition to similar Blairite public service reforms.

He will promise “entitlements” for people using services rather than top-down targets.

For the first time, a PCT will have to provide funding for a private consultation if it cannot give cancer patients a specialist appointment within two weeks of a GP referral.

In practice, nearly all NHS trusts in England meet the deadline, so the measure is only expected to affect a few hundred patients.

However, it is seen as a major change of emphasis to involve the private sector in acute treatment.

At the moment, only elective surgery, such as hip replacements and cataract surgery, is provided through private treatment.

The two-week target was first introduced for suspected breast cancer cases in 1999, and extended to all cancers in 2000.

However, despite improvement, research has indicated that five-year survival rates in the UK are still below the European average.

Copyright Press Association 2009