United Kingdom has poorer cancer survival rates than other countries

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Despite repeated statements of intent to close the gap between Britain and other advanced economies, a person diagnosed with colon cancer in the United Kingdom now has a 60 per cent chance of surviving for five years, compared with a 71 per cent chance in Australia.

In order to help close the survival gap, more cancer patients must be diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, the report said, as early-stage cancer is usually much more treatable than late-stage cancer. For example, a person diagnosed with colon cancer in the United Kingdom has a 60% chance of survival after five years, compared with 71% for those living in Australia. In August, Public Health England released data which illustrates the way that cancer patients are diagnosed may affect their treatment options.

Meanwhile, more staff must be hired to operate diagnostic machines and interpret scan results in order to avoid delays in the treatment process.

Limited capacity in hospital has also held back referrals.

Improving early diagnosis and closing the survival gap will require generating momentum and supporting collaboration across primary and secondary care to shorten waiting times and improve treatment.

The document, which examines changes in cancer care across England since 1995, also calls for pilots into rapid diagnostic centres to be accelerated.

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They quote national guidance suggesting that Global Positioning System should investigate patients with symptoms that indicate a three per cent or higher risk of cancer.

Making sure it is clear which NHS bodies are responsible for delivering progress in early diagnosis at national and local level, with regular progress reports using key metrics including: uptake of screening and outcomes; number of referrals; stage of cancer at diagnosis; and number of emergency presentations.

The study, compiled by the Health Foundation and Professor Sir Mike Richards, the former National Cancer Director, concludes that the NHS has failed to meet the promises set out in the first NHS Cancer Plan in 2000, which promised that five-year survival rates would compare with the best in Europe within a decade. "This is the equivalent to a jumbo jet of people falling from the sky every two weeks", he said.

According to the research, while significant progress has been made in reducing cancer mortality in recent years, someone diagnosed with colon cancer in the United Kingdom still has just a 60% chance of being alive five years later, compared to 71% in Australia.

But Richards said: "If we are serious about moving the dial on early diagnosis, then setting out targets and handing out money will not be enough".

"The NHS must change the way that care is now organised to make it easier for people to be seen and diagnosed as quickly as possible, as we know this gives them the best chance of survival". The disruption caused by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was profound, and financial pressure has compounded this. "Without these, the injunction of resources alone will not be effective".

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