Primary care trusts could make significant cost savings by adopting a more personalised approach to the follow-up care of cancer patients, national clinical director for cancer Professor Sir Mike Richards has said.

Speaking to HSJ ahead of this week’s launch of the national cancer survivorship initiative, Professor Richards said shifting the focus of aftercare for cancer patients towards supported self-management could help reduce the number hospital attendances and unnecessary hospital admissions.

The number of cancer survivors is increasing by three per cent every year and if we don’t do this the costs to the NHS will go up

“If more patients take command of their illness because they’ve been given the proper information and education, this will reduce the risk of them having to come in and out of hospital,” he said.

“Having properly assessed people and planned their care we will be able to give them much more tailored support, including follow-up by telephone. This is good for patients in that they don’t have to go to the hospital all the time and it’s good for the NHS in that it can be very effective and is a lot less expensive,” he added.

The government has invested £1.6m in the cancer survivorship initiative, which was announced in the cancer reform strategy in 2007. Macmillan Cancer Support are currently running 38 pilot studies across England looking at a range of new models of follow-up care for people with different types of cancer.

Professor Richards said the results from the pilot sites will provide information on the costs and benefits of the survivorship initiative.

“At the moment we don’t have good data on the costs of survivorship care as opposed to the costs of primary treatment. The results from the pilot sites will give us something much firmer to go to commissioners with,” he said.

“We want to be engaging with commissioners now saying that this is the direction of travel we are taking. The number of cancer survivors is increasing by three per cent every year and if we don’t do this the costs to the NHS will go up,” he added.

The results from the pilot sites are expected by the end of 2010. The Department of Health will publish a set of principles for service commissioners based on the tested models of care that can be adopted across the NHS.