New DoH targets for cancer screening and referrals

Health secretary Alan Johnson has announced a range of new targets and screening initiatives.

Prior to his speech at the Labour party conference in Brighton today, he set out plans to improve cancer care by ‘increasing access, reducing waiting times and expanding screening for breast and bowel cancer’.

The proposals will be part of a new Cancer Reform Strategy to be launched this autumn. DoH officials confirmed that the plans would include:

  • a guaranteed appointment with a specialist within two weeks of referral for all patients with breast problems, not just those with suspected cancer.
  • expansion of the 62-day referral-to-treatment guarantee. This will allow specialists in hospitals and screening centres to fast-track patients, putting them on a level with those referred urgently by their GP.
  • cervical screening results within 14 days - this will benefit four million women every year. At present, over half of patients wait six weeks or more for their results.
  • extending the age range of women eligible for breast screening to ages 47 to 73 over time. The current age range is 50 to 70. An extra 200,000 women a year will be screened.
  • extending the age of bowel screening from 70 up to 75 years from 2010. As a result, around one million more men and women will be screened each year.

Chief executive of Cancer Research UK Harpal Kumar said:

‘We welcome an extension of the national screening programmes and reductions in waiting times for referral. These will have a significant impact on survival from cancer, and we are delighted that the government is responding to many of the calls we have been making in our Screening Matters campaign over the last few months.’

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