Early detection of all cancers improves a patient's chance of survival. In March 2000, "Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer" were published and sent to all general practitioners in order to help them identify those patients who are most likely to have cancer, so that they can be referred urgently to a specialist. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is in the process of updating these guidelines. The update is due to be published in February 2005.
In order to ensure that high quality services for cancer patients are provided across the country, the NHS Cancer Plan set out the following broad approach, which addresses the diagnosis process and treatment:
the development of a comprehensive package of guidance ("Improving Outcomes" guidance) on services which are most likely to improve outcomes for different types of cancer; the translation of this guidance into measurable national standards (the "Manual of Cancer Standards"); and a national programme of peer review to ensure compliance with these standards.
"Improving Outcomes Guidance on Lung Cancer" was published by the Department in 1998 and lung cancer services were peer reviewed on the resulting standards in 2001. The "Manual of Cancer Standards" is currently being updated and a three-year rolling programme of cancer peer review against this manual is expected to start in autumn 2004. In addition, NICE is preparing clinical guidelines for the national health service in England and Wales for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. This is expected to be published in November 2004. NICE has also appraised four chemotherapy drugs for treatment of lung cancer and is in the process of appraising a fifth.
The work of the Modernisation Agency's Cancer Services Collaborative 'Improvement Partnership' (CSC 'IP') is central to the drive to improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. A specific goal of the CSC 'IP' is to promote early diagnosis of lung cancer.
In November 2003, the establishment of a Lung Cancer Advisory Group was announced. This group, which will be meeting in March, will be chaired by Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director and will advise on the development and delivery of lung cancer services, including relevant elements of the NHS Cancer Plan.