One-year cancer survival rate continues to increase in Bedfordshire – but early diagnosis lags behind

It’s feared survival could "go into reverse" as a result of missed early diagnoses

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 12:15 pm

The survival rate of cancer patients in Bedfordshire one year after diagnosis is still on the rise, new figures show.

But it comes as early diagnosis rates lag behind Government targets for 75% of cancer cases to be detected at stage one or two by 2028.

A panel of experts appointed by MPs has described the Government's commitment to cancer care across England as "inadequate", while former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned cancer survival could "go into reverse" as a result of missed early diagnoses.

An MRI scanner

NHS Digital figures show 73.6% of people living in the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG area survived the first year after their cancer diagnosis in 2019.

This was up from 73% the year prior and 63.5% in 2004, when records began.

The figures do not include patients with prostate and non-melanoma skin cancers.

Across England, one-year survival rates steadily rose over 15 years, from 64.4% to 74.6%.

However, little progress has been made on early diagnosis and the national rate remains well below the 75% target, which was first announced as part of the NHS Long Term Plan in 2018.

Separate NHS Digital figures show just 55% of cancers were detected at earlier stages in 2019 – the latest available figures.

This was an increase of just 0.3 percentage points compared to 2013, when records began,

In Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, 58.1% of all cancer diagnoses in 2019 were classified as stage one or two, up from 57.8% over the same time period.

Mr Hunt, chairman of the Government's health and social care committee, which recently published a report on cancer services nationally, warned early cancer diagnosis is being jeopardised by staff shortages and the "damaging and prolonged impact" of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the NHS is not on track to meet the Government's early cancer diagnosis target and that more than 340,000 people will miss out on an early diagnosis between 2019 and 2028 without fixing key issues.

Earlier this year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid declared a "national war on cancer" and announced a 10-year strategy would be published.

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said while there has been limited progress on cancer survival rates in recent years, the Government must address severe staff shortages and provide concrete solutions in its 10-Year Cancer Plan.

An NHS England spokesperson said cancer care is a priority for the organisation and the £3.8 billion plan to recover elective care over the next three years will help catch and treat more cancers at an early stage.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We recognise that business as usual on cancer is not enough – that’s why we have redoubled our efforts and are developing a 10-Year Cancer Plan to set out how we will lead the world in cancer care."

The DHSC has promised to tackle the Covid-19 backlog, reduce cancer waiting times and invest £8 billion over the next three years, adding to an extra £2 billion investment in 2021.