NHS England has announced a £15-million "initial and immediate" investment to support a range of measures aiming to speed up the detection of cancer.

The "major programme of work" includes the creation of a National Diagnostics Capacity Fund, which will test initiatives to increase capacity and productivity of diagnostic services.

Also, new multidisciplinary diagnostic centres will be trialled over the next two years to help instil and spread best practice, while the new Faster Diagnosis Standard is being piloted in five local health communities, the ambition being for patients referred for testing by a GP to have an answer within four weeks.

The NHS is also planning to establish Cancer Alliances made up of clinical and other local leaders from across different health and care settings. These are to be rolled out across the country in September, tapping into a new cancer data dashboard to review local data on survival, early diagnosis rates, etc, to determine areas in need of improvement.

The moves form part of a wider plan by The National Cancer Transformation Board to increase prevention, speed up diagnosis, improve the experience of patients and help people living with and beyond cancer, given that the number of cancer diagnoses is expected to reach over 300,000 a year by 2020.

"One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer and too many people are being diagnosed when their cancer is advanced. We need to change this," said Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for England. "Through this cancer strategy we will drive a transformation in cancer care that will touch every corner of the country and improve services for thousands of people."

Professor Chris Harrison, national clinical director for Cancer at NHS England, noted: "The NHS is seeing 50 percent more patients with suspected cancer than four years ago and survival rates have never been higher," but he also stressed there is more to do "to ensure all people have a consistently good experience of care and support".

"Work is already well underway to realise the ambitions of the Cancer Taskforce - by working together, we can transform the services and offer a world-class cancer service for everybody."