New cancer drive to save 5,000 lives a year
NICE will produce a series of quality standards on cancer care, as part of the government's strategy to drive up England's cancer survival rates.
Improving Outcomes - A Strategy for Cancer sets out an ambitious plan for the NHS to save 5,000 lives a year by 2014/15 by improving the quality and efficiency of cancer services and moving towards achieving outcomes which rival the best in Europe.
The strategy, published today, with more than £750 million of funding over four years, includes recommendations on diagnosing cancer earlier, helping people to live healthier lives to reduce preventable cancers, introducing new screening programmes, and making sure that all patients have access to the best possible treatment, care and support.
NICE quality standards, a set of specific, concise statements that act as markers of high-quality, clinically and cost-effective patient care, will play a key role in the strategy. They aim to help healthcare practitioners and commissioners of care deliver excellence in services.
Quality standards will be developed for colorectal, lung, ovarian and prostate cancer, while good early progress has been made on key topics such as patient experience, end of life care and breast cancer. The breast cancer quality standard is expected in August this year.
The quality standards will be used to support the production of more detailed commissioning guidance, to which GP consortia must have regard when contracting for services.
NICE has also been asked to assess the suitability of developing a quality standard on chemotherapy. The need for further quality standards to support the development of cancer services is also being considered as part of arrangements for defining the full suite of future standards, according to the strategy.
In the meantime, commissioners and providers can continue to draw on the clinical guidelines and Improving Outcomes Guidance that NICE has already developed for cancer services.
NICE guidance on the prevention of skin cancer will be published later this month and should inform local interventions as well as national campaigns.
Elsewhere, the strategy calls for the promotion of the latest surgical techniques to help cancer patients. Historically there has been unacceptable variation in access to high quality surgery and central action has been needed to speed up the uptake of the latest surgical techniques.
For example, NICE recommended that laparoscopic colorectal resection should be offered to all suitable patients in 2006. However, because of the shortage of trained surgeons, a Department of Health waiver to the technology appraisal guidance was put in place.
In order to address the shortfall in surgeons with suitable skills and experience to perform laparoscopic surgery, a national training programme (LAPCO) was established to accelerate adoption of this technique.
LAPCO now has over 150 consultants on the programme, and as a result the waiver on the NICE technology appraisal has been lifted.
Commenting on the launch of the cancer strategy, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Cancer affects us all. Everyone will have a story of someone they love battling the disease. In those instances we all need to know that the NHS will be there for us.
“Our ambition is simple; to deliver survival rates among the best in Europe and this strategy outlines how we will make our first steps towards this.
“The Coalition Government's reforms of health and care services will drive improvements in what matters most to patients and their families - cancer outcomes. Our commitment is to save 5,000 extra lives a year from 2014/15 and that is what we will be measuring our success against.”
12 January 2011