Within 28 days of referral patients must get definitive cancer diagnosis or the all-clear, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said, as part of a £300m programme launched today and rolled out by 2020.
The health minister announced that the £300m will be spent on diagnostics, a national recovery package and a Health Education England (HEE) training programme – out of the £8bn promised for the NHS in the budget in April.
HEE plans to train 200 staff to carry out endoscopies by 2018, along with the extra 250 gastroenterologists the NHS have already committed to train by 2020. Together these newly trained staff will be able to carry out over a half a million more endoscopy tests on the NHS by 2020, the release read.
In a statement today, Hunt said: “For people who are worried they may have cancer, waiting for that all important test result is a nerve-wracking time. We have a duty to make sure this period of uncertainty is as short as possible.”
The programme also includes plans to reduce unnecessary chemotherapy sessions by giving 25,000 genetic tests to identify the most suitable treatment, and offering a tailored recovery package to those diagnosed with cancer.
This would include physical activity programmes, psychological support and advice about returning to work. NHS England will develop a new national quality of life measure with cancer charities to monitor how well people live after treatment.
Hunt added: “Those who sadly have cancer will get treatment much quicker and we will save thousands of lives as a result. We’re making this investment as part of our ambition to lead the world in cancer survival – investment that’s only possible because of a strong economy.”
The NHS will identify five hospitals across the UK to pilot the new target before the programme is rolled out nationally to cover all cancers by 2020.