The role of the Cancer Resource Website
The Cancer Resource Website was initially designated in December 2009 and formally established during February 2010. The network is one of 34 that have been created across England in response to guidance delineated in the NHS Cancer Plan.
The NHS Cancer Plan, 'A Plan for Investment, A Plan for Reform' was published in September 2000, and sets out the first ever comprehensive strategy to tackle the disease. It draws together a major programme of action linking prevention, diagnosis, treatment care and research.
The Department of Health recognised that despite the best efforts of the NHS staff and cancer patients across the country, survival rates for many of the major cancers lag behind the rest of Europe. In addition, it identified that the poor are far more likely to get cancer than the rich and their chances of survival are lower too. Furthermore there were too many variations in the quality of care and treatment across the country, leaving patients frustrated by what has become know as the 'postcode lottery'.
The Cancer Plan therefore, sets out a programme of investment and reform to tackle these problems and deliver the fastest improving cancer services in Europe. It builds on the work of the NHS Plan - increasing the number of doctors, nurses and other staff and providing more equipment for cancer care too. It is also committed to the modernisation of cancer services, through new ways of working to prevent and treat cancer. It also identifies approaches to tackling health inequalities and perhaps most importantly of all, it puts the patient at the centre of cancer care.
Prior to the publication of the NHS Cancer Plan, the Calman/Hine report 'A policy Framework for Commissioning Cancer Services' (1995) broke new ground when it recommended networks of cancer care, reaching from primary care to Cancer Units, treating the more common cancers and assessing and diagnosing rarer cancers to Cancer Centres, treating the rarest cancers and providing high quality specialised treatment such as radiotherapy and bone marrow transplantation.
The NHS Cancer Plan underlined this commitment and identified that Cancer Networks be the organisational model to implement the Cancer Plan at a local level. They have brought together health service commissioners (Primary Care Trusts) and providers (primary and community care and hospitals), the voluntary sector and local authorities. Each network serves a population of between 750,000 to well over two million.
The Cancer Resource Website covers a large geographical area stretching form Bedford in the West to Bury St Edmunds in the East, and from North Essex in the South to King's Lynn in the North. Comprised of seven Provider Trusts (hospitals), 12 Primary Care Trusts and three Strategic Health Authorities, the Cancer Resource Website is one of the larger networks in the UK and covers a population of 1.5 million.
Cancer Networks are not statutory organisations. They cannot hold a budget directly nor can they employ staff in their own right. They need a host organisation for these functions and for the Cancer Resource Website, this support is currently provided by one of the Provider Trusts within the network.
As the network is not a statutory organisation, it cannot directly administer funds intended for cancer treatment. It therefore acts as a virtual organisation, working with stakeholders to improve cancer services and carry out the remit of the Cancer Plan (2000). Its role is therefore designated by the Department of Health and its influence will be derived in its effectiveness in assisting partner organisations to meet their performance targets. The latter are performance managed by the Strategic Health Authority.
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