The Department of Health has asked all hospitals with emergency departments to establish acute oncology services.

The request follows a report by the National Chemotherapy Advisory Group which identified a need to extend the availability of emergency treatment for cancer patients suffering side effects from chemotherapy as well as previously undiagnosed cancer patients needing emergency care. 

National cancer director Mike Richards said the DH had examined the potential costs for hospitals of setting up new services but found these would be cost “neutral overall” as better treatment would mean patients would have shorter stays in hospital.

Professor Richards added: “The use of chemotherapy has expanded markedly in recent years and while this has brought huge benefits to the majority of patients serious concerns have been identified in the quality and safety of treatments.

“This new guidance will help all hospitals improve the quality and safety of their treatment and I urgently ask them to adopt these guidelines.”

Health minister Ann Keen said: “All cancer treatment in Britain has improved vastly in recent years. The challenge now is to keep up this momentum and we will now work with the NHS to implement the recommendations of this report.”