The media today have reported that differences in access to key NHS services, including cancer care, are putting patients at risk,
The NHS Atlas of Variation – published by NHS England and Public Health England – looks at service performance in more than 200 local areas.
The report reveals that patients in some parts of England are far more likely to have their cancer diagnosed early than those living elsewhere. Just 30% of patients in the worst-performing areas are diagnosed with cancer when the disease is at an early stage, where the survival rates are much better, compared to 56% in the best.
The stark differences in early cancer diagnosis prompted concern that many patients are dying unnecessarily because their tumours are picked up only when they are too late to treat. Experts were reported as saying the differences were ‘unfair’ and put them down to the ‘limited professional knowledge’ of doctors as well as ‘chaotic organisation’ at hospitals.
Patient groups called the findings “extremely concerning”, while NHS bosses warned action must be taken by local health chiefs as the variations in care would be costing lives and harming health.
Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, Mark Flannagan, said “It’s unacceptable that there are CCGs in England that diagnose less than 1 in 3 patients at an early stage. If they all performed as well as the best, thousands of lives could be saved.
“This will require further improvements in screening, renewed efforts to raise awareness of signs and symptoms, and investment to support improvements in GP performance in investigating and referring patients appropriately.”
For a full copy of the report can be found on GOV.UK