Cancer screening to be expanded and waiting times to be further reduced

Published 25th September, 2007

Government plans faster, more comprehensive cancer care for patients

Proposals to improve cancer care by increasing access, reducing waiting times and expanding screening for breast and bowel cancer will be set out in a new Cancer Reform Strategy this autumn, the Department of Health confirmed today.

  • a guaranteed appointment with a specialist within two weeks of referral for all patients with breast problems, not just those with suspected cancer;
  • expansion of the 62 day referral-to-treatment guarantee. Currently only those referred as an urgent case by their GP are guaranteed treatment within 62 days, meaning those referred via screening programmes or a consultant are not included. This will allow specialists in hospitals and screening centres to 'fast track' patients, putting them on a level with those referred urgently by their GP;
  • cervical screening results within 14 days - this will benefit four million women every year. At present, over half of patients wait six weeks or more for their results;
  • extending the age range of women eligible for breast screening to ages 47 to 73 over time. The current age range is 50 to 70. An extra 200,000 women a year will now be screened; and
  • extending the age of bowel screening from 70 up to 75 years from 2010. As a result, around one million more men and women will be screened each year.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"We are determined to go further on cancer waiting times and to improve early detection rates for cancer patients. Every year, millions of people will benefit from this major expansion of screening programmes for cervical, breast and bowel cancers. Most importantly, those found to have cancer will have a better chance of survival."

"By speeding up the time taken to diagnose and treat patients with suspicious symptoms, we will provide an even better service for cancer patients. This is a great step forward in cancer care that will improve care and save lives."

Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director, said;

"Cancer is a major health problem. One in three of the population will develop cancer and one in four will die from it, making it the joint number one killer alongside heart disease. Major progress has been made on tackling cancer in England over the past 10 years and especially since publication of the NHS Cancer Plan in September 2000. This progress has been made through a combination of investment and reform, sustained effort by the NHS, with a clear direction set by the NHS Cancer Plan."

"The earlier a cancer is detected, the better a patient's chance of survival. The cancer screening programmes already save thousands of lives each year and the new extensions to the breast and bowel cancer screening programmes will save more lives and drive up survival rates in this country. When we publish the Cancer Reform Strategy later this year, we will go even further on improving cancer care in the NHS."

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said:

"We welcome an extension of the national screening programmes and reductions in waiting times for referral. These will have a significant impact on survival from cancer, and we are delighted that the Government is responding to many of the calls we have been making in our Screening Matters campaign over the last few months."

Breast Screening:
The Facts

Cervical Screening:
The Facts

Bowel Cancer Screening:
The Facts

Breast Screening: The Facts Cervical Screening: The Facts Bowel Cancer Screening: The Facts