Region divide as cancer survival up

The number of adults and children surviving cancer is on the rise across England, but figures show survival still depends on where someone lives.

f294a3ec-614c-11e3-bac2-0a0c0223000020131210T201310
North East residents have more than double the chance of being sent for a targeted form of radiotherapy than those in the South West, according to a report

The number of adults and children surviving cancer is on the rise across England, but figures show survival still depends on where someone lives.

Although the North-South divide in survival rates has narrowed since 1996, it is still "persistent", according to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Data from more than three million people shows that cancer of the oesophagus, bowel and lung have the widest regional variations for people still alive one year after diagnosis.

The report, which covers the 25 NHS England area teams, reveals there was a difference of more than 10% between regions on these cancers.

In one example, 68.3% of women in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire with bowel cancer are alive a year after diagnosis, as are 69.4% of those in West Yorkshire.

But women living in the South fare better, with 79.2% of those in Thames Valley alive after a year, as are 74.4% of those in Surrey and Sussex.

Meanwhile, in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral, 29.6% of women with lung cancer are alive a year after diagnosis, but in East Anglia the figure is 40.7%.

The range in one-year survival between NHS England area teams was widest for men diagnosed with stomach cancer at 14.2%, the report went on.

However, at a national level, there has been an increase in survival rates for six key cancers.

The largest improvement in one-year survival among men occurred for oesophageal cancer, where survival increased by 19% from 26.7% for those diagnosed in 1996 to 45.4% for those diagnosed in 2011.

For women, the largest improvement in one-year survival was for lung cancer, where survival increased by 13% from 21.9% for those diagnosed in 1996 to 34.7% for those diagnosed in 2011.

The ONS also published figures on childhood cancer, showing five-year survival has gradually increased from 66.6% in 1990 to 81.3% in 2006.

The data covers all children with cancer up to the age of 14.

Last week, figures from NHS England showed thousands of people eventually diagnosed with cancer may be failed by GPs who do not refer them quickly enough.

Figures from around 4,000 GP practices in England show that, in many cases, only a minority of patients are fast-tracked for investigation by a specialist.

In some practices, only around one in 10 patients eventually diagnosed with the disease saw a specialist within two weeks.

The target for the NHS says 95% of patients with suspected cancer referred by their GP must be seen by a specialist within two weeks.

The data suggests many are not seen on this basis and are eventually diagnosed another way.

While some GP practices show 100% of patients with cancer making it through the fast-track system, others fall far behind.

In around half of the practices in the sample, fewer than 50% of cancer patients were seen through the two-week system.

A report by MPs has condemned the findings as a "national disgrace" and suggested doctors should get financial incentives to ensure they diagnose patients within the target.

The report by the all-party parliamentary group said there was a gulf between affluent parts of London and the Home Counties and the rest of the country.

There was a wide regional variation in urgent referral rates, ranging from fewer than 800 referrals per 100,000 people in areas of London to nearly 3,500 per 100,000 in the North East and East Anglia.

In Liverpool, premature cancer death rates were more than twice as high as in Kensington and Chelsea, west London, where fewer than 78 people per 100,000 under-75s died early.

North East residents have more than double the chance of being sent for a targeted form of radiotherapy than those in the South West.