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Lack of funding for cancer treatment sees UK survival rate lag behind EU average


18 July 2017

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UK survival rates are lagging behind the European average in most cancers, a new report by a pharmacy trade body has found.

The report found that spending 20% less of its total health budget on cancer than the rest of the EU is impacting survival rates after five years for nine out of 10 cancers.

The report, commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry,shows that, across Europe, increased investment in cancer care leads to improved patient outcomes.

This includes investment in early diagnosis, patient access to optimal treatments – including surgery, radiotherapy and medicines – and support for cancer survivors.

Dr Richard Torbett, executive director at the ABPI, said the report’s findings should be a ‘wake-up call’ to increase funding for cancer treatments.

He said the findings show the impact that ‘comparatively lower levels of UK investment in cancer is having on the quality of care available to British patients’.

He added: ‘We are seeing that investment in cancer diagnosis and treatments like surgery, medicine and radiotherapy, in countries across Europe is leading to better survival rates and we have to ask whether this should be the ambition for the NHS.’

The report said that if the UK had the cancer survival rates of Germany – ranked sixth for five-year survival rates – 35,000 more people would be alive five years after diagnosis.

The UK was found to rank second last in survival rates for both lung and pancreatic cancer.

But Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said the country’s five-year cancer survival ‘has improved but overall we still lag behind other similar countries, except for breast cancer, where the UK is narrowing this gap’.

She added that the report’s focus on the importance of data collection to better understand the value of new cancer drugs is ‘welcomed’.

The report said that ‘significant steps are being made to improve the data collection infrastructure for cancer’ in the UK as access to cancer medicines is consistently lower than most European countries.

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