England has not been able to close the gap on the best-performing countries in treating cancer despite 20 years of experience, according to an analysis.
The health fund review of the government record between 1995 and 2015 said that despite four strategies setting ambitious goals, the NHS is still lagging behind the best.
He said that if the services were improved, 10,000 lives could be saved each year.
Earlier diagnosis was the key, he said.
Professor Mike Richards, a former government cancer czar who led the review, warned that patients have difficulty getting access to tests and scans.
"Although progress has been made, the goals of all these strategies have not been achieved."
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He said that the number of opportunities to save lives was the same as that of a "plane" of people falling from the sky every two weeks.
It comes only a month after the prime minister promised to make an early diagnosis of cancer as a key priority for NHS spending in the coming years.
Cancer waiting times "worst case ever"
How far behind the NHS?
Survival rates are improving. In 2000, 62% of patients survived for at least a year. By 2015, this rate had risen to 72%.
Meanwhile, five-year survival has risen from 42 percent to 53 percent.
But other countries have also improved. The health fund highlighted Britain's performance against five other countries – Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
This is done for six main types of cancer – colon, rectum, breast, lung, ovary and prostate.
For each of them, Britain remained in the lowest two years since 2000 for five years of survival. Only about breast cancer has it really close the gap with the best.
The highlighted thought forms, which show 10,000 deaths, can be prevented each year with a better diagnosis. This represents one of 13 deaths from the disease.
What is the problem?
Sir Mike talks about "keeping the gate close" in the NHS.
He said that GP pressure was not to refer too many patients, while the NHS did not have enough equipment or staff to perform all the tests and scans ideally.
Dealing with it will require a big investment, the report said.
Doctors treat almost two million patients a year for urgent tests and scans – almost four times the number they did more than a decade ago.
But the increase in referrals has coincided with the long wait time, with the NHS now struggling to meet its targets.
And despite the additional numbers referred, one out of five cases is still diagnosed through emergency presentation in places such as emergency accident units.
Patients diagnosed with this path are less likely to survive as cancer was diagnosed late.
Sir Mike said the services were also hit by the Health and Health Act of 2012, which led to regional cancer expert groups caused as part of the broader health care outreach.
He said it made many experienced professionals leave the NHS.
What does the government do?
Sir Mike welcomed the fact that the government promised additional funding – £ 20 billion a year by 2023 – and cancer would be a major focus.
Last month, the Prime Minister promised a new strategy to ensure that three-quarters of cancer were diagnosed early – currently only half.
NHS England has been flying rapid diagnostic clinics. These are in fact one-way testing centers where patients can have access to a variety of specialists and procedures on the same day.
Sir Mike said these steps would help.
He also called for doing more to raise awareness among the public of signs and symptoms to look for – research shows that people in the UK sometimes refuse to come forward when they show signs of cancer.
And he said that the NHS should look at new approaches, pointing to a study that shows people at high risk for lung cancer can benefit from a new form of testing for the disease using low-dose CT scans.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that improving early diagnosis was a "key priority" and indicated that next year a new 28-day diagnostic target would be distributed.
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