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Although survival rates are at a record high and continue to improve, the Government know that there is more to do. Survival rates for all cancers will be improved by diagnosing cancers earlier and beginning treatment at an earlier stage. This is why in October 2018 the Government announced a package of measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028. The plan will radically overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state of the art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation.
As set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England and NHS Improvement will shortly be introducing a Faster Diagnostic Standard of 28 days for all cancer patients, including those with lung, liver, brain, stomach, pancreatic, and oesophageal cancer, which when taken together with the 62-day referral to treatment standard, will mean that all patients should expect to start their treatment within 34 days of diagnosis.
NHS England is rolling out Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) across the country to bring together the latest diagnostic equipment and expertise, in line with the NHS Long Term Plan commitment. This programme builds on the Multidisciplinary Diagnostic Centre (MDC) model piloted through the Accelerate, Coordinate and Evaluate (ACE) programme, which focussed on diagnosing cancers where patients often present with non-specific symptoms and may go to their GP many times before being sent for appropriate tests. As of March 2020, 17 RDCs are currently live.
NHS England is extending lung health checks, targeting clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) with the lowest survival rates. In Greater Manchester introducing low dose CT health checks saw an almost five fold reduction in stage 4 disease, with 80% of cancers diagnosed at an early stage.
NHS England has committed funding of over £1.3 billion over the next five years to deliver the commitments on cancer in the Long Term Plan.