Slow diagnosis is failing cancer patients

Prof Karol Sikora
Prof Karol Sikora

One of Britain’s leading consultant oncologists claims that a staggering 10,000 deaths per year are caused by the NHS’s failure to treat cancer patients fast enough and he has drawn up a 10-point plan aimed at dramatically improving survival rates.

Cancer specialist Prof Karol Sikora, dean of the country’s first independent medical school at the University of Buckingham, says it is a disgrace that Britain has trailed near the bottom of the European Survival League for two decades.

He believes his plan would put us at the top.

The 10-point plan is a vision of how the NHS could speed up diagnosis and treatment to save lives.

Professor Sikora, who is due to unveil the 10-point plan in a public lecture titled Can we do better for Cancer? at the University of Buckingham tomo Tuesday, said: “In spite of a lot of effort straddling decades, we still lag behind in the European league table for cancer survival.

The NHS can provide the best cancer care in the world and for some complex cancers such as lymphoma, leukaemia and testicular cancer we are as good as anywhere.

But the common cancers – breast, lung, colon and prostate – are the problem, resulting in excess deaths equivalent to one jumbo jet crashing every two weeks.”

Only 25 per cent of British cancer patients are referred through the urgent two-week pathway – which means they are seen by a specialist within a fortnight.

And 25 per cent come via the UK’s already overstretched A&E service.

Prof Sikora said: “No other Western European country has such a haphazard referral pattern.”

And he said student doctors should be taught the importance of early cancer diagnosis right from the start.

Buckingham GP Greg Simons, who is professor of General Practice at the University of Buckingham, said: “Putting the emphasis on earlier diagnosis in primary care and providing fast track routes to diagnostic tests coupled to better patient and carer involvement makes good sense.

“We have to aim to achieve the best cancer survival figures in Europe.”