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More screening needed to boost cancer survival rates, charity claims

Tuesday 27th November 2018
Britain needs to do more screening to reduce cancer deaths and should bypass the GP system if necessary, a charity has said.
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The Health Foundation charity has called for an increase in screening for cancer across the UK, arguing that a stalling of the numbers being checked has held back progress in saving lives.

Its report stated that a comparative lack of screening of people who see their GPs with symptoms that may be cancerous is the key reason a number of similar countries to the UK have better survival rates. 

Calling for a major overhaul to the way cancer is treated on the NHS, the team led by former national cancer director Sir Mike Richards argues that this may require bypassing the current arrangements under which doctors get to decide if one of their patients should be screened. 

Instead, he argued, one-stop shops operating independently of the GP system need to be put in place instead to enable more screening to take place. 

Sir Mike argued: "I’m a strong believer in GPs and primary care. It's a key component of our health service and I don’t want to see anything that undermines that. GPs are under pressure not to refer people on to secondary care. That’s what we have got to change."

The expert had spent 14 years as the national cancer director and introduced Britain's first cancer plan in 2000. However, this did not deliver the promised result that by 2010, five-year cancer survival rates in the UK would be up with the best in Europe. 

He said the number of extra deaths caused by Britain's underperformance in treating cancer was "the equivalent of a jumbo jet of people falling from the sky every two weeks".

Britain's continued comparative weakness in cancer outcomes was revealed in the recent Concord-3 study, which found Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden were all ahead when it came to survival rates for six of the  most common types of cancer.

The availability of scanners is also an issue, with Britain 35th out of 37 comparable nations for CT scanners and 31st out of 36 for MRI scanners.

Written by Martin Lambert

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