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Question for Department of Health

UIN 204557, tabled on 8 July 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what his Department's strategy is to ensure that GPs can detect cancer and refer cancer patients for treatment quicker.

Answered on

15 July 2014

Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer, published in January 2011, committed over £450 million over the four years up to 2014-15 to achieve earlier diagnosis of cancer, including funding to support direct general practitioner (GP) access to key diagnostic tests and to cover additional testing and treatment costs in secondary care. The intention is that more people presenting with relevant symptoms will be tested and that, as a result, more cancers will be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

The cancer waiting times two week urgent suspected cancer standard – which is included in the NHS Constitution – ensures that, where GPs are concerned that a patient might have cancer, they are seen quickly by secondary care.

The earlier diagnosis money also included funding for centrally-led Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, which aim to raise awareness of the symptoms of cancer and get symptomatic patients to present earlier and for some work to help support GPs.

In 2012, to increase the awareness of cancer among GPs and support GPs to assess patients more effectively, the Department funded the British Medical Journal Learning to provide an e-learning tool for GPs. Four modules were developed as follows: tackling late diagnosis; risk assessment tools; cancer pathway and the role of primary care; and diagnosing osteosarcoma and brain tumours in children and young people.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is in the process of updating the Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer (2005) to ensure that it reflects latest evidence and can continue to support GPs to identify patients with the symptoms of suspected cancer and urgently refer them as appropriate. NICE's anticipated publication date for the revised guidelines is May 2015.

Finally, the NHS Outcomes Framework (2014-15), Public Health Outcomes Framework (2013-2016) and the Clinical Commissioning Group Outcomes Indicator Set (2014-15) include cancer indicators to help NHS England and Public Health England assess progress in improving early diagnosis.