NHS cancer care improved, but could do better - National Audit Office

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Improvements have been made in cancer care since 2007, however, lack of information on costs and outcomes inhibits improvements, according to an National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The NAO estimates that cancer cost the NHS approximately £6.3bn in 2008-09, but the Department of Health has limited assurance as to whether it is achieving value for money.

Reported spending on cancer care varies between Primary Care Trusts (PCT) - in 2008-09 varying from £55 to £154 per head - and there is unexplained variation from year to year.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, commented: "Further improvement depends, to a significant degree, on raising standards of practice around the country up to the best. A key factor in driving this is a much improved approach to information on cancer services."

The report notes that by reducing the average length of stay in hospital to the level of the best performing PCTs, efficiencies worth some £113m a year could be achieved. If the number of inpatient admissions per new cancer diagnosis was reduced to the level of the best performing PCT, bed days equivalent to around £106m each year could be saved.

In 2000, the Department published the NHS Cancer Plan, which set out a 10-year strategy to improve cancer services, which included setting up cancer networks, introducing waiting time standards, as well as additional funding of £570m.

In 2007, the Department published its five-year Cancer Reform Strategy which acknowledged that, although improvements had been made, the gap in mortality rates between England and the best European countries had not closed.

 

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