Measures for shorter waiting times in cancer care

Between 2015 and 2018, the Government is carrying out a number of measures to ensure more equitable and accessible cancer care, with a focus on shortening waiting times and reducing regional differences.

Photo: Johnér/Corbis

Medical care in Sweden maintains high standards and shows results that stand up well in international comparisons. Life expectancy is increasing and the number of people dying of diseases such as cancer is decreasing. But health and medical care must also be equitable and given on the same terms, regardless of gender, socioeconomic background or country of birth. Surveys and follow-ups of care outcomes show, however, that there are still unwarranted differences in both health and care between various groups.

Cooperation for shorter waiting times

The Government, together with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, is therefore carrying out a series of concerted measures in the area of cancer care. Between 2015 and 2018, the Government intends to set aside SEK 500 million per year to ensure more equitable and accessible cancer care, with a focus on shortening waiting times and reducing regional differences.

Aim of the Government's cancer measures

  • Create more equitable cancer care of a higher standard
  • Improve access by shortening waiting times and reduce regional differences
  • Shorten the care process between reasonable suspicion and start of treatment
  • Introduce a common national system of standardised care pathways
  • Create greater satisfaction among patients through better information and more involvement

Waiting times in cancer care will be shortened

Starting in 2015, the first stage is being carried out in the four-year investment to ensure shorter waiting times in cancer care. The initial aim is to shorten the care process between reasonable suspicion and the start of treatment. To achieve this, the most important measure is to introduce a national system of standardised care pathways. Introducing such standardised care pathways will result in a more coherent care process around the patient. Besides shorter waiting times, these measures are also expected to result in better information, greater involvement and generally more satisfied patients.

Standardised care pathways

The standardised care pathways describe which examinations and initial treatments are to be carried out for a particular cancer diagnosis, as well as which time limits apply – both for the entire process and for the different examination stages. The time limits are to only cover medically justified time and vary between diagnoses and treatments.

Standardised care processes introduced in 2015:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer)
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Esophageal and stomach cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Bladder and urinary tract cancer

Standardised care pathways to be introduced in 2016:

In 2015, additional standardised care pathways were drawn up for introduction in 2016. Work is due to begin for thirteen types of diagnosis:

  • Breast cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Cancer of unknown primary (CUP)
  • Suspected cancer with serious, diffuse symptoms
  • Brain tumours
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Myeloma
  • Colorectal and rectal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

Money to the county councils

Agreement for 2016

The Government and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions have reached an agreement for 2016 covering a total of SEK 444 million, of which the majority has been set aside as incentive funds for the county councils to introduce the system of standardised care pathways.

The agreement means that standardised care processes will be introduced for thirteen new types of cancer diagnosis over the course of the year. Efforts to introduce standardised care pathways began successfully in 2015 for five types of diagnosis. The new types of diagnosis for 2016 include breast cancer, brain tumours, lung cancer and ovarian cancer.

Agreement for 2015

The agreement for 2015 covered a total of SEK 444.5 million. The money was paid in two stages. The first amount, SEK 207 million, was paid to all county councils following a decision by each county council on the introduction of standardised care pathways and once they had submitted an action plan by 15 March 2015.

The second amount, SEK 206 million, was paid once to the county councils that had submitted by 1 November 2015 a report on how work had progressed on the basis of the action plan submitted.

National Board of Health and Welfare to monitor and evaluate the task

The National Board of Health and Welfare has been tasked by the Government with monitoring and evaluating the measures aimed at shortening waiting times in cancer care, etc.

The National Board of Health and Welfare is to continuously keep the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs informed about how the task is progressing. The Board must also submit an annual report by 30 November each year (starting in 2015) to the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. The final report is to be submitted by 1 April 2019.