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UK ‘failing children with cancer’

1st August 2007

Children in the UK are less likely to survive cancer than their European counterparts, leading doctors have warned today.

A report in the Lancet medical journal states that children are a “low priority for the NHS” and claims there are “no targets” to improve the situation.

Dr Alan Craft from the Institute of Child Health, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Dr Kathy Pritchard-Jones from the Royal Marsden hospital and Institute of Cancer Research say that more must be done to help children, beginning with a reassessment of routine surveillance and their primary care.

Further investment must be made, they add, to bring the UK in line with the best performing countries in Europe.

“Although there is a national service framework for children, which sets standards, there are no targets. Children continue to be a low priority for the NHS,” the doctors write.

In response, a Department of Health spokesperson acknowledged “there is more to do so that our services match the best in Europe” but said “great strides” had been made in treating children with cancer.

“In the 1960s around 25 per cent of children were successfully treated. That figure is now around 75 per cent,” the spokesperson added.

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