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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Two-week cancer guarantee may be abandoned

15th July 2010

David Cameron has suggested a guarantee that all NHS patients thought to have cancer can see a specialist within two weeks could be abandoned if doctors and health officials think it is not improving cancer care.


Labour introduced the NHS guarantee that anyone referred by a GP for cancer treatment will be seen within two weeks.

But during the election campaign the Conservatives were challenged over whether they would retain the target, which advocates say helped reduced the anxiety felt by patients who feared they may have cancer.

In recent weeks, the Coalition has said it will drop many targets to give doctors more freedom on decisions over treatment.

At Prime Minister’s Questions Labour leader Harriet Harman challenged Mr Cameron over the target and he said it was possible it could be dropped to allow greater variations in treatment times, meaning some patients will be seen more quickly, and others more slowly.

He said: “We will only keep targets where they actually contribute to clinical outcomes. For some people two weeks is too long. If a target contributes to good clinical outcomes, it stays. If it doesn't, it goes.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the Coalition’s health policy was mired in confusion.

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association backed scrapping the target if it meant quicker referrals but was worried some patients would end up waiting longer.

"If someone is given a diagnosis of cancer or a hint of a diagnosis, you do not want any delay before they can see a specialist", she said.


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