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What does the NHS long-term plan mean for people with blood cancer in England?

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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07 Jan 2019

The NHS long-term plan has finally been released, but what are the key announcements and what might they mean for people with blood cancer?

Two health professionals discuss notes

After much anticipation, the long-term plan for the NHS has been unveiled. Setting out how the NHS intends to spend an extra £20.5 billion over the coming five years, the plan includes a big focus on cancer. It includes commitments to improve early diagnosis rates, give children access to the latest diagnostic tests and provide personalised, supportive care to everyone with a cancer diagnosis.

Earlier diagnosis

Improving rates of early diagnosis of cancer is a key part of the plan. The Prime Minister already announced a goal of diagnosing 75% of cancers at stages one and two by 2028 — an ambitious goal.

There are over 100 types of blood cancer and it’s not possible to diagnose all of them at early stage. However, we know people with some blood cancers, such as myeloma and some types of lymphoma are likely to benefit from earlier diagnosis. We’ll be asking the NHS England to set themselves stretching and ambitious targets to improve diagnoses in blood cancer in order to give many hundreds of people diagnosed every year a greater prospect of living longer.

To improve diagnosis rates, the plan announces the roll-out of Rapid Diagnostic Centres. These will be ‘one-stop shops’ where a person with symptoms that don’t point to a specific condition can get a series of tests to rule out cancer.

The plan recognises that around a third of people with blood cancer have to see their GP three or more times before they get diagnosed. We’re therefore hopeful that these centres, along with a commitment to help GPs better recognise key cancer symptoms, could help detect some blood cancer types earlier and save lives.

Children with cancer

Blood cancer is the most common type of cancer in children and, tragically, the third biggest cause of cancer death. That’s why it’s really exciting that the plan makes detailed proposals to improve standards of care and treatment for children with cancer.

From this year, all children with cancer will be offered whole genome sequencing. This means that specialists will, for the first time, be able to read the entire DNA sequence of a child’s cancer. This will tell them more about their condition and could help them better identify the most effective treatment.

The plan also announces commitments to invite children, teenagers and young people to participate in clinical trials. This could mean that more children get access to cutting edge treatments before they’re available routinely on the NHS, and help more people benefit from them in future.

Personalised care

Finally, the plan also sets out a commitment to make a person’s cancer care more supportive and personalised. We know that too many people with blood cancer tell us they feel like ‘fakes’ because they’re put on watch and wait instead of receiving treatment. Other people tell us that, because their blood cancer is a lifelong condition, it isn’t something they ever ‘recover’ from.

We’re pleased that that by 2021 the NHS will offer people diagnosed with cancer an assessment of their needs. This could lead to a plan to address any further issues that aren’t identified or more information and support. However, it’s important that everyone with blood cancer can benefit and the plans are truly personalised to their individual needs.

Next steps

Our Policy and Campaigns Team already works with the NHS, Ministers, and MPs from all political parties to improve awareness of blood cancer and deliver improvements in treatment and care. We’ll be doing everything we can to ensure that the promises in the long-term five-year plan become a reality for people with blood cancer now and in the next decade.

Find out more about the campaigning we do for people with blood cancer