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Patients showing signs of cancer to be ‘given diagnosis within three weeks’

Patients showing signs of cancer will be promised a diagnosis within three weeks under new Government plans, it was reported last night.

It will mean millions more patients will be offered CT and MRI scans via mobile units in supermarkets and shopping centres across the country.

The proposals form part of a 10-year plan to improve the NHS’s woefully late diagnosis rates from the major killers. 

It will focus on breast, bowel, prostate and lung cancer, The Daily Telegraph reported.

 Patients showing signs of cancer will be promised a diagnosis within three weeks under new Government plans, it was reported last night (stock image) 

Doctors will be encouraged to refer patients for immediate tests, avoiding potential delays while patients are referred to a specialist.

The ‘scan first, ask questions later’ approach acknowledges that in most cases, a definitive diagnosis cannot be made until such checks have been completed.

Currently, most patients with suspected cancer are meant to begin treatment within 62 days, however the disease can spread during this time.

Matt Hancock will today tell the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that improving cancer care is a key target for the NHS.

The Health Secretary is expected to say every seriously ill child and millions of adults with cancer will have their genes sequenced in a five-year plan to develop more personalised medicine.

The Prime Minister is also expected to identify cancer as a key priority for the £20billion investment the Government has pledged for the NHS.

Mr Hancock is expected to tell the conference: ‘I’m incredibly excited about the potential for this type of technology to improve the diagnosis and treatment for patients to help people live longer, healthier lives, a vital part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.

‘[The] commitments form part of our bold aspiration to sequence five million genomes in the UK, using ground-breaking technology to do this within an unprecedented five-year period.

‘At present, diagnosis happens when we fall ill and seek help from our doctor or nurse but the more genetic information there is the earlier clinicians can predict, diagnose and treat the illness in a way that work best for each patient.

‘In many cases, it can take years to diagnose a rare disease, and genomics has the potential to speed this up and reduce the number of invasive tests which patients currently have to undergo.’

NHS sources said the proposals, which will be revealed in the 10-year plan later this year, hope to change the way cancer is treated.

Britain has some of the worst cancer survival rates in western Europe in part due to late diagnoses.

Figures from April to June show 80.8 per cent of patients with suspected cancer started treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by a GP.

This is below the Government target of 85 per cent for the 18th consecutive quarter, and the worst quarterly performance against this target since records began.


Cancer waiting times in England sunk to their worst ever levels, according to damning NHS statistics released in September.

Only 78.2 per cent of patients started treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral – well below the Government target.

Charities slammed the figure, which was the lowest percentage since records began nearly 10 years ago, in October 2009.

Macmillan Cancer Support described them as ‘disappointing’, as the 62-day target was breached for the 31st month in a row. 

And the Royal College of Nursing warned the ‘bold statistic represented untold stress and misery for thousands of patients and their families’.

The last time the national target of 85 per cent of patients starting treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral was hit was in December 2015.

Headlines were made in August, when the same figures for June were revealed, showing the figure was just 79.2 per cent.

But in July, the most recent month that data is available for, the rate dropped even further – down to 78.2 per cent.