HEALTH CHIEFS have launched a major initiative designed to improve prevention, detection and treatment of cancer following a campaign by former English rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio.
NHS England announced an independent task force which will develop a five-year action plan for cancer services to improve survival rates and save thousands of lives.
It also launched a new programme to test ways of diagnosing cancer more quickly at more than 60 sites across the country, and committed a further £15m over three years to evaluate and treat patients with a new type of radiotherapy.
Dallaglio, a former Ampleforth College student, began campaigning following the death of his mother Eileen in 2008.
More than one in three people in the UK develop cancer and half will now live for at least 10 years – 40 years ago, average survival was just one year.
But for some cancers patients are being diagnosed late, so some survival rates are below the European average.
The task force, chaired by Cancer Research UK chief executive Harpal Kumar, has been asked to focus particularly on better prevention, swifter diagnosis, and better treatment, care and aftercare.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We must never rest in our determination to give everyone the best possible chance of beating cancer and that is why I am delighted Harpal Kumar has agreed to lead this task force that will see the brightest and best experts working on what more we can do.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It is vital that the NHS diagnoses cancer early and is at the forefront of the latest developments in cancer treatment.”
NHS England also announced the launch of a major early diagnosis programme, working jointly with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, testing seven new approaches to identifying cancer more quickly.
The aim is to evaluate a number of initiatives across more than 60 sites around the country to collect evidence on approaches that could be implemented from 2016/17.
Dallaglio, who campaigns for improved cancer services, said: “This project is a significant step forward for patient access to advanced radiotherapy in our country.”
It comes as Yorkshire Cancer Research today announces it will invest a further £1.1m in innovative projects designed to bring benefits to cancer patients throughout the region.
The investment, which includes six pioneering studies in Leeds and Sheffield, follows £4.3m of new projects funded last year. A further £5m of funding will be announced in the next few weeks as part of the charity’s new strategy to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer more effectively in Yorkshire.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Head of Research Funding at the charity, said: “We are extremely pleased to be able to announce another significant investment in patient focused research.”
Dr Scott said: “National funding for cancer research in Yorkshire lags behind many other regions and Yorkshire Cancer Research is increasing its commitment to the region. We know patients do better when treated by research active centres and when they are involved in clinical trials.”