Accelerating access to pancreatic surgery has been shown to boost success rates by more than a fifth with a cost saving to the NHS of around £3,200 per patient.

A pilot treatment pathway for pancreatic cancer, funded by Pancreatic Cancer UK and held at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, slashed the average time to surgery from two months to just over two weeks.

Referrals for patients were sped up and the way surgery was carried out was reorganised, while the team also cut out a treatment generally given to patients before surgery for the symptoms of jaundice, which reduced the time to surgery from an average of 65 days to 16 days.

The research, published in HPB Journal, show that 97 percent of patients who were eligible for surgery went on to have the treatment successfully, compared to a current average of 75 percent of eligible patients. Complications and readmissions after surgery were also reduced under the new pathway.

“These results are incredibly exciting. Surgery is the only treatment for pancreatic cancer that can save lives. If we can ensure that hundreds more patients have their tumour successfully removed each year, it could be a huge breakthrough in treatment,” noted Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK.

“The exceptional element of this pilot is that it saved the NHS £3,200 per patient. If we could see this pathway rolled out across the board, those savings could be reinvested into specialist nurses who could make the journey to surgery even quicker. Those nurses would in turn be a game-changer for pancreatic cancer care, and create more savings for the NHS too.”

Nearly 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year, but just eight percent will have surgery to successfully remove their tumour, largely because they are diagnosed at an advanced stage when surgery is no longer an option.