MPs: Cancer 'Postcode Lottery' Must End

A Group Of Influential MPs Said The Current State Of Cancer Care Is A "National Disgrace"


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A group of MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer has argued more needs to be done to get people the treatment they need for the disease.

Members of the panel today (December 10th) released their report, which showed a huge disparity between different areas of the UK in terms of residents' chances to see a specialist within the recommended time, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Chair of the group John Baron called the situation a "national disgrace" and stated that high numbers of people getting diagnosed with cancer in A&E units showed that GPs are often failing to see the basic signs of malignancy.

"We need to redouble our efforts at every level to promote earlier diagnosis - cancer's magic key - so that our survival rates catch up with other countries. Our concern is that the NHS will take its eye off the ball whilst the new structures bed down," he added.

Poorer areas were generally found to perform worse in the report and premature cancer mortality rates were twice as high in Liverpool as they were in Kensington and Chelsea.

While NHS targets dictate that GPs should strive to give people with newly diagnosed cancer the chance to see a specialist within two weeks, this happened just 46 per cent of the time in 2011-12.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, which helped the parliamentary group to come to its conclusions, said GPs must be given the right tools to diagnose people quickly.

"We cannot afford to take our eye off cancer when we are only just beginning to see improvement," she added.
One recent campaign to improve diagnosis rates in the UK paid dividends for NHS England.

While lung cancer has been particularly problematic for GPs in the past, as many members of the public thought their coughing symptoms were caused by a viral infection, a set of adverts asking members of the public to see a doctor if they have had a cough for more than three weeks meant an extra 700 patients were diagnosed.

Expert Opinion
The postcode lottery of different levels of cancer care across different regions of the UK has quite simply got to end.

“Early diagnosis is crucial to ensure the maximum amount of treatment options, thus significantly improving the chances of survival for many types of cancer.

“For under half of people to have seen a specialist within the recommended target of two weeks is not good enough and people may be missing out on vital treatment because they are not being diagnosed quickly enough. We need to make sure we are giving sufferers the best chance of beating their cancer.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner