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Cancer care shows improvement in England

18th November 2010

New data has shown that cancer care in England is getting better.

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A National Audit Office report has highlighted clear signs of improvement with the death rate falling, despite more people being diagnosed with cancer.

However, it is also concerned that a lack of reliable statistics is holding back further improvements and that has meant that the Department of Health has been unable to say if its Cancer Reform Strategy, published in 2007, offers value for money.

With some 255,000 people a year diagnosed with cancer, treating the condition cost the NHS in England £6.3bn in 2008/09, though cancer care in the UK is worse than elsewhere in some parts of Europe.

The NAO is concerned data on chemotherapy treatment and outcomes is poor and that there are also unexplained variations in the amount spent on cancer care by Primary Care Trusts.

In an example in 2008/09, one PCT spent £55 per head, while another spent £154 per head.

This, the NAO says, makes it impossible to tell whether this results in patients receiving better treatment or getting better outcomes but it note a reduction in the number of hospital admissions for cancer patients.

Treating more cancer patients as day patients and making improvements in the use of radiotherapy machines could also help the NHS meet increased demand and save money.

The Department of Health is carrying out a review of the Cancer Reform Strategy this winter while care services minister Paul Burstow is aim to get cancer survival rates up among the best in the world.

 

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