Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can make a difference to the chances of survival, which is why these are such important standards. The new cancer standards will see the current ten targets reduced to three and starting in October ’23, the two-week wait target will be replaced in favour of the Faster Diagnosis Standard.

Will these new standards speed up cancer diagnosis?

The 3 consolidated cancer standards are summarised as:

1. The 28-day Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) – People should have cancer ruled out or receive a diagnosis within 28 days, with an attainment target of 75% of people meeting this target. A tougher ambition of 80% will be introduced in 2025-26.This standard applies to people who have been urgently referred by a GP for suspected cancer or following an abnormal cancer screening result or by a GP for breast symptoms.

2. 62-day referral to treatment standard – People with cancer should begin treatment within two months (62 days) of an urgent referral. 85% of people should meet this standard.

3. 31-day decision to treat to treatment standard – People with cancer should begin their treatment within a month (31 days) of deciding to treat their cancer. 96% of people should meet this standard.

Will these standards speed up cancer diagnosis in England?

It is good to see cancer standards consolidated in a way that benefits cancer patients with more of a focus on the patient outcome, as seen with the 28 day FDS. Unfortunately, the two week wait target has not been achieved since May 2020 and cancer wait times are still poorly performing across the country due to various reasons, such as staff shortages, COVID backlog and limited resources to name a few.

It is great to see a focused approach to earlier diagnosis and clearly this focus will help save lives if delivered successfully. These targets are ambitious so it will become even more critical to review and implement pathway change, supported by rapid adoption of more new assistive technologies such as AI and the latest medical devices.