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Cancer standards reform to ensure faster care and treatment for patients

The NHS is to reform cancer standards to meet rising need, meaning thousands will benefit from improved care and faster treatment

Thousands of people, referred for urgent cancer care checks every month are set to be diagnosed and treated sooner, as the NHS reform cancer standards. The reform comes after ‘rigorous consultation and engagement’ with clinical experts and will see the implementation of three cancer standards which combine all of the previous standards and cover additional patients.

The three new standards will consist of:

  • The 28-Day Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) which means patients with suspected cancer who are referred for urgent cancer checks from a GP, screening programme or other route should be diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days.
  • The 62-day referral to treatment standard which means patients who have been referred for suspected cancer from any source and go on to receive a diagnosis should start treatment within 62 days of their referral.
  • The 31-day decision to treat to treatment standard which means patients who have a cancer diagnosis, and who have had a decision made on their first or subsequent treatment, should then start that treatment within 31 days.

The standards, which will come into force in October, will ‘provide a clear focus’ to bring down waiting lists and get people diagnosed and treated ‘as early as possible’ according to Professor Peter Johnson, NHS National Clinical Director for cancer.

He added, ‘Catching cancers early saves live and these three standards have been agreed by leading cancer experts, with the support of cancer charities and clinicians, as the best way for the NHS to ensure patients are diagnosed and able to start treatment quickly.’

The new standards will mean that the NHS can embrace greater use of technology for diagnosing and treating patients. Straight to test pathways, remote consultations and the use of AI to diagnose skin cancer will support more efficient care where patients do not necessarily need an appointment first.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national NHS medical director said: ‘The NHS is already catching more cancers at an earlier stage, when they are easier to treat, than ever before and the faster diagnosis standard will allow us to build on this excellent progress – it aims to ensure that patients get the all clear or a definitive diagnosis within 28 days.

‘The updated ambitions will mean the NHS can be even more focused on outcomes for patients, rather than just appointment times and it’s yet another of example of the NHS bringing cancer care into the modern era of care.’