COPDLung cancer survival rates in England should ‘match the best in Europe’ in order to save lives, insists a group of senior clinicians from the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC). The call comes in response to a request from NHS England’s new independent cancer taskforce for expert input into its forthcoming five-year plan.

“Despite improvements in care over the last ten years, lung cancer survival rates in England still lag significantly behind other European countries,” says Dr Mick Peake, chair of the UKLCC’s Clinical Advisory Group and clinical lead, National Cancer Intelligence Network and National Lung Cancer Audit. “Lung cancer remains England’s biggest cancer killer – accounting for over 28,000 deaths.”

Currently, England ranks 26 out of 29 European countries in terms of lung cancer survival data – one of the worst in Europe – with only 8.8% of people still alive five years after diagnosis, compared to a European average of 13%.

“This is primarily a result of late diagnosis and wide variation in patient experience and access to treatment across the country,” adds Dr Peake. “Tackling these challenges has been made harder by the recent NHS reorganisation, which removed advice and support to NHS lung cancer services, such as changes to the role and funding of cancer networks.”

As well as welcoming a commitment by the cancer taskforce to improving lung cancer survival rates in England, the UKLCC is also urging investment in cancer support functions and improved staffing levels across the lung cancer pathway, most specifically in lung cancer nurse specialists. It also wants sustained funding for national lung cancer awareness programmes and promoting greater support for clinical research.

“We know over 3500 lives could be saved in the UK if survival rates for lung cancer were to match the best in Europe,” says Mr Richard Steyn, Chair of the UKLCC and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Medical Director, Surgery, at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

The UKLCC has welcomed the formation of the new, independent cancer taskforce announced by NHS England in January 2015. Its remit is to develop a five-year action plan for cancer services that will improve cancer survival rates and ultimately save thousands of lives.