Earlier and faster diagnosis is dependent on people understanding and being aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, by taking up screening programmes or visiting a healthcare professional in a timely manner. Cancer survival rates in England are higher than they have ever been and early diagnosis is a key part to further improvements with survival rates.

The importance of earlier cancer diagnosis has been recognised as one of three priority areas for primary care networks. The Cancer Alliances have a key role in driving this work forward; providing a dedicated focus and capacity to deliver local improvements in cancer outcomes.

This drive in cancer care is being supported by a number of publicity campaigns aimed at raising awareness of signs and symptoms; encouraging people to see their GP without delay. Campaigns have included 'Be Clear on Cancer'  and 'HelpUsHelpYou' - aimed at encouraging take-up of health services during the COVID pandemic. (Resources are available for the Be Clear on Cancer and Help Us Help You campaigns). 

Campaigns and work to improve earlier diagnosis are part of the NHS Long Term Plan and the Cancer Workforce Plan, which are detailed below: 

  • The NHS Long Term Plan expands upon work in the NHS to transform cancer care so that from 2028, an extra 55,000 people each year will survive for five years or more following their cancer diagnosis and three in four cancers (75%) will be diagnosed at an early stage.
    • The plan includes improving our national screening programmes, giving people faster access to diagnostic tests, investing in cutting edge treatments and technologies, and making sure patients can benefit from precise, highly personalised treatments.
    • It also includes a commitment to the funding of expansion of community multidisciplinary teams based on neighbouring GP practices working together. 
  • The Cancer Workforce Plan ensures the NHS has the right numbers of skilled staff to provide high quality care and services to cancer patients, this has been jointly developed by NHS England, Health Education England and other key partners.

Helpful guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement is provided below:

Network contract directed enhanced service (DES) - Early Cancer Diagnosis Guidance 

Network contract directed enhanced service (DES) – NHS E&I information