NHS England’s 10 year plan: detecting and diagnosing cancer more quickly

The Myeloma UK Patient Advocacy Team takes a look at the NHS England 10 year plan, and the implications it will have for myeloma patients.

Patient advocacy news // 31st January 2019

Six months after the NHS celebrated its 70th birthday, the NHS England Long Term Plan has set out how healthcare services in England will change over the next ten years. It features a range of milestones for cancer care, some of which could make positive impacts on outcomes for myeloma patients.

In this series of blogs, we explore some of the most important themes in the plan and what they could mean for the future of myeloma care – starting with faster cancer diagnosis.

Diagnosis in the long term plan

It is good to see the Long Term Plan focus on early diagnosis as “one of the biggest actions the NHS can take to improve cancer survival”.

Myeloma is known to be one of the most challenging types of cancer to diagnose early. Symptoms can be vague and many patients end up visiting their GP multiple times before myeloma is suspected.

The overall aim for cancer detection in the Long Term Plan is that three-quarters of all cases will be diagnosed at an early stage by 2028, shifting from around half currently. This ambition could see many more cancers treated at a point where better outcomes, including survival, are more likely. This is the first time that there has been a target for diagnosis that covers all cancers, including blood cancers like myeloma – a major step forward.

A key element of improving diagnosis under the plan is the roll out of new Rapid Diagnostic Centres across England. These centres allow GPs and other healthcare professionals to assess patients with vague symptoms in a more collaborative way, delivering the right diagnostic tests more quickly.

The plan also introduces a new faster diagnosis standard from 2020. The NHS hopes this will lead to most patients finding out whether they have cancer within 28 days of being referred by their GP for tests. This ambitious target is welcome, but the reasons for delayed diagnosis in myeloma are complex and different to other more common types of cancer.

The Long Term Plan also promises more investment in new equipment such as CT and MRI scanners which are important in the diagnosis of myeloma.

The actions set out in the plan have the potential to improve and speed up diagnosis in myeloma, but we need more detail. Myeloma UK will work with Government and NHS England, as well as with other charities through the Blood Cancer Alliance (BCA) and Cancer52, to make sure it delivers for myeloma patients:

  • New diagnosis target – we will work with NHS England and to make sure that this is meaningful for myeloma
  • Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs) – early information shows that blood cancers including myeloma are being picked up by RDCs, but the numbers are small and they are not necessarily leading to earlier diagnosis
  • Faster standard – the Myeloma UK Early Diagnosis Steering Committee brings together leading myeloma doctors, researchers, and experts in primary care. It has gathered essential data on the reasons for delays and is working on a blueprint to improve diagnosis in myeloma
  • CT and MRI investment – we need to make sure that myeloma patients get their fair share of this new resource and the right number of trained staff are in place

You can read the BCA response to NHS England’s Call for Evidence on the Long Term Plan here.

What do you think of the plans for diagnosis?

We’d like to hear from you on the action on diagnosis in the long term plan. What do you think of the proposals? What do you think might be missing and what more would you like to know? Let us know in the comments below.


Leave a comment on this story:

    Avatar Tracy says:

    I cannot believe that in 2018 my mother was sent away from her GP times and times again. Fobbed off with pain relief and told it was her liver causing the severe pain in her ribs. A year later to find out it was a broken rib. This was after her shoulder bone and collar bone snapped. This is what it took for them to take it Seriously. My mum would be pleased at this news but for us it’s too late we lost everything the day she passed away.

    Avatar Jean Smyth says:

    Sounds very promising but when will it be applied to Northern Ireland

    Avatar Tom Bruce says:

    Great news but only mentions NHS England, what’s happening in other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales & Ireland.

    Avatar Cleonice MacPherson says:

    It would be good if worked as planned but like any political promises is just to make it look good. delivery. .After Brexit. ..let’s see promise was made that the nhs was going to get the support it needs. ..I think we will just have to wait and see at the point of delivery. ..

    Avatar Christine Hill says:

    I agree with Tom Bruce. Will it apply to Wales,N Ireland and Scotland. U.k should mean the whole of the u.k. Let’s hope it applies anyway they can talk the talk but will they walk the walk.

    Avatar Editor says:

    Thanks for your comment, Jean. As you may know, all decisions about healthcare services in Northern Ireland are devolved. This means that it will be up to the Department of Health NI to decide which parts of this Long Term Plan should be introduced through its policies. We want to make sure that myeloma patients in every part of the UK receive the same high standard of treatment and care and will work with decision makers to achieve this. – Michael

    Avatar Editor says:

    Thanks for your comment, Tom. This Long Term Plan only applies to England, but each of the devolved governments has separate plans in place for the delivery of healthcare services. We will work with policy makers to help ensure that myeloma patients across the UK receive high standards of treatment and care. – Michael

    Avatar Editor says:

    Thanks for your comment, Cleonice. We hope that the implementation of this Long Term Plan achieves its ambitious targets and improves the lives of myeloma patients. We will work with the government and NHS England to try and make sure this happens. – Michael

    Avatar Editor says:

    Thanks for your comment, Christine. This Long Term Plan only applies to England, but each of the devolved governments has separate plans in place for the delivery of healthcare services. We want to make sure that actions which improve the lives of myeloma patients will be adopted across the UK, and we will work with decision makers to achieve this. – Michael

    Avatar J.Ferguson says:

    I am aware that GPS rarely see mms but surely they need an expert system to analyse all the pieces of information from various sources. My symptoms over a 12 month period were, broken spine, broken ribs, osteoporosis and mugs. My GPS could only recommend osteopath gateway in 19÷ weeks for the severe back pain. I had a private consultation at my cost, he could not see my trays which I visually described. He suggested mms and tests which clearly saved my life as my pp was well over 100 and I was deteriorating rapidly
    The information was there but I suspect the up money was not, I was 76 which appears to be a critical factor.

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