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“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Press Release New report warns Lansley: cancer care could get worse under reforms

Launch of 2020health Report 'Cancer Commissioning: Making the reforms work for patients'

A leading health think-tank has expressed concern at the Government’s shake-up in the provision of cancer care and warns that patients risk being “passed from pillar to post.”

After conducting extensive research and interviews with health professionals, 2020Health says Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s proposals do not go far enough in improving cancer treatment for patients, and may even jeopardise progress made over the past decade.

Cancer Networks, where a patient’s treatment and care are managed through a joined up approach, are acknowledged as having improved cancer treatment in the UK. There is growing concern that the government’s new commissioning structure could undo the progress made.

The UK still has one of the worst cancer survival rates in the OECD. Despite spending £5.8bn on cancer care in 2010, the NHS offers poor cancer survival rates compared to Europe, Canada, Australia and many Scandinavian countries.

The think-tank’s report, Cancer Commissioning: Making the reforms work for patients, is published on Thursday June 28 and has been welcomed by MPs. It voices concern that the Government’s proposals ignore the feedback from health experts, who are calling for greater patient involvement in the design and management of their care.

Gail Beer, Consultant Director of 2020Health, says: “A National Health Service in the twentieth-first century must reflect the diverse nation of its 62 million users. Why not involve people more in the design and evaluation of key services? Regrettably, the latest reforms do not provide greater scope to do so.

“It’s only fair for patients to play a more active role in shaping the direction of their health care. After all, the NHS is funded directly by the taxpayers who use it.”

Mrs Beer also criticises the mindset of the providers of cancer care: “Worryingly, the proposals do not change that the commissioning of cancer services is still based on targets and not outcomes. Targets on computer spreadsheets are meaningless to patients – what matters to cancer sufferers and their families’ is the outcome.

“What is right for one patient may be wholly inappropriate for another. The NHS needs to finally shake off its ‘one size fits all’ approach to healthcare.” 

Mrs Beer praises the progress that has been made in the treatment of the ‘big four’ cancers – breast, colon, lung and prostate – over the last five years. The 2020Health report argues these improvements are “directly attributable” to the introduction of cancer networks and that this progress risks being undermined.

Cancer networks were introduced in 2000 to encourage the providers of cancer care and the commissioners of cancer care to work together to deliver quality, personalised cancer services to patients.

John Baron MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, said: “I welcome this report with its patient centred approach and emphasis on accountability.

"Cancer Networks have a wealth of expertise that GP run Clinical Commissioning groups need to draw on in order for survival rates to improve.”

Mrs Beer continued: “Sadly, Mr. Lansley’s reforms are a missed opportunity principally because they do not build upon the success of the cancer networks. Cancer remains the number one killer in Britain, with over 300,000 cancer diagnoses every year.

“If the cancer networks are to be dismantled as a result of the latest reforms, the British public must be assured that their replacement is capable of delivering patient-focused improvements in cancer care. Mr. Lansley’s report offers little assurance that this will be the case.”

Research conducted by 2020Health revealed an urgent demand from medical professionals for greater accountability in cancer care. Robust accountability is believed to be essential in order to implement change at all levels of care, from planning to commissioning and into delivery.

Mrs Beer summarises how vital accountability is to improving patient care: “Strengthen the mechanisms of accountability and we will improve how we plan and manage cancer care. Failure to do so will impact directly on cancer sufferers.

“Leadership will be crucial in navigating the way forward. Cancer care cannot be reformed without engagement from clinicians at all levels and clarity about what needs to happen.

“This is something the Government must address as a matter of urgency. With cancer care, the stakes are very high indeed.”


Note to Editors

For interviews, comment or further information please contact Gail Beer, 2020health Consultant Director on 07957 122239 or Christian May on 020 3008 8147