Key points

  • This report looks at progress in cancer care over two decades. It finds that progress has been made on reducing mortality, and improving the chances of survival and the experience of care, for people in England diagnosed with cancer. 
  • However, despite persistent ambitions to be the best in Europe and the world, the gap in survival rates has not been closed.
  • The report sets out recommendations to help close the gap in survival between England and other comparable countries.

Read the executive summary

This report looks back to the launch of the NHS Cancer Plan in 2000, which noted that England had poorer survival than in other European countries and promised that by 2010 ‘our 5-year survival rates for cancer will compare with the best in Europe’. 

It finds that progress has been made on reducing mortality, and improving the chances of survival and the experience of care, for people in England diagnosed with cancer. However, the gap in survival rates has not been closed. 

The report sets out recommendations to help bring about radical improvements in early diagnosis and detection of cancer, such as increasing investment in diagnostic equipment, building public understanding of cancer symptoms, improving resourcing of primary care, greater support for GPs to refer more patients and supporting collaboration across primary and secondary care. 

It concludes that the disruption caused by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 led to a loss of momentum that is only recently being rebuilt, and highlights that it is crucial that local clinicians and managers are supported to work across organisational boundaries to improve care, share experience and learn improvement skills.

Cite this publication

Richards M, Thorlby R, Fisher R, Torton C, 'Unfinished business: an assessment of the national approach to improving cancer services in England 1995–2015'. Health Foundation; 2018 (https://www.health.org.uk/publications/unfinished-business)

Find out more

Press release

Radical rethink required to close gap on cancer survival between England and comparable countries

27 November 2018
Press release

Early diagnosis and investment in diagnostics must be a priority, says a major report out today.

You might also like...

Press release

Latest figures suggest the NHS is being tested to its very limits

Press release

Health Foundation response to NHS England’s monthly performance statistics.

Podcast

After the COVID storm: Where next for the NHS?

Podcast

Episode 3. What is the long-term path for the NHS when the emergency phase of COVID is over? 

Video

Surviving COVID: The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of NHS workers

Video

This film illustrates the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of NHS workers and...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

RT @Reema__Patel: *****Job Klaxon! ***** New @AdaLovelaceInst Senior Researcher role on Justice and Equalities, which includes working wit…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more