Cancer concerns

THE contradictions at the heart of the coalition's NHS policy are further illustrated by the updated cancer strategy that has now been unveiled by Andrew Lansley. Even though he is committed to allowing GPs to determine priorities at a local level, this is another example of the Minister setting the agenda.

And, even though cancer care has received unprecedented funding in recent years, Mr Lansley has decided that even more money should be allocated to such treatment – despite the wider financial pressures that are now afflicting the National Health Service.

No one will disagree with the Minister's sentiments; every family across the Yorkshire has been, or will be, touched by cancer. Yet what Mr Lansley should, perhaps, be undertaking is a review of current policies to see if funding can be spent more efficiently as the NHS looks to save 20bn by 2015.

Such an exercise has been fundamental to the improvements in stroke care now being experienced, and where the number of deaths has reduced by a quarter across Yorkshire because of greater co-operation between hospitals and care agencies. Similar opportunities potentially exist with cancer care, but it will only happen if politicians, and health professionals, provide a sufficient lead.

Given the failings in his department's flu vaccination strategy, it is understandable that Mr Lansley wants to give GPs the power to send patients directly for tests without being referred to a consultant. This will help, potentially, to save 5,000 lives a year. But the greatest difference will come from patients seeking medical advice at the earliest opportunity, and GPs being able to correctly diagnose the likelihood of cancer. These are points that will have to be considered if Mr Lansley is to achieve his laudable aspiration.