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Cancer outcomes—what’s stalling progress in England?

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 17 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2295
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Ambitious targets on cancer set for 2028 seem unachievable. Elisabeth Mahase looks at the challenges ahead

England will miss the 2028 cancer targets set out in the NHS long term plan without significant investment, experts have warned MPs.

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select committee, chaired by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, set out in July to find out why cancer outcomes in England lagged behind those in similar countries and to determine what needed to be done to close the gap.

In an evidence gathering session on 14 September the MPs were told that cancer services were being hampered by a staff shortage, an overburdened workforce, and a lack of investment in research and diagnostics.

In January 2019 the government outlined its 10 year plan for the NHS in England. This promised that by 2028 75% of cancers would be diagnosed at an early stage (stage I or II) and that outcomes would improve to the extent that 55 000 more people each year would survive cancer for five years or more after diagnosis.1 In March 2021 it also said that within 28 days of an urgent referral 75% of patients should be told whether or not they have cancer.

Progress sliding

There is some way to go to meet these targets. …

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