The NHS Cancer Plan: A Progress Report; Twentieth Report of Session 2005-06; Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence

The 10 year NHS cancer plan, published in 2000 established 34 cancer networks in England, to lead to the improvement of cancer services in each locality. The National Audit Office investigated the plan's progress (HC 343, session 2004-05, ISBN 0102932379), and the Committee subsequently took evidence on three main issues: improving the provision of cancer services; making cancer networks work; and addressing inequalities. Increased funding is getting through to front line staff, and is being spent on new drugs, staffing and new services. But 30 per cent of the networks have no comprehensive plans for providing cancer services in their locality. Monitoring of performance against targets by the networks is inconsistent, and very necessary when faced with some demanding targets. Relationships between the networks and the primary care trust should be improved. Inequalities persist: cancer mortality rates are higher in areas of greatest deprivation, the highest mortality rates being twice the lowest across strategic health authorities. In addition, patients are diagnosed with cancer at a later stage in the UK than in other European countries, particularly in deprived areas. The networks should make clear how inequalities are to be addressed.

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