Cancer networks are to lose guaranteed funding while the government will rely on investment from charities to achieve its ambition for one to one cancer care.

The government’s new cancer strategy, published last week, also reveals the government will keep all of the cancer waiting time targets.

The strategy sets out the ambition to save an extra 5,000 lives a year by 2014-15 and offer every patient one to one care by increasing the number of clinical nurse specialists.

However, no funds have been earmarked for the extra nurse specialists. Instead, the DH hopes commissioners will take advantage of an additional 2,700 one to one support posts being funded with £300m from Macmillan Cancer Support.

The government plans to invest an extra £750m in cancer over the next four years, of which £450m will go towards improving early diagnosis.

A DH spokesman told HSJ that although no ringfenced funds were being provided, NHS organisations would be free to spend some of the £450m on one to one nursing posts.

National director for cancer Sir Mike Richards told HSJ: “The NHS commissioning board and Public Health England will be told: ‘Your task is to improve NHS survival rates.’ We have made sure the money is there. We are not ringfencing the money but we are absolutely committed to outcomes.”

The strategy has also cast an uncertain future over the existing 28 cancer networks.

The networks will be funded during 2011-12 but after that it will be for commissioning consortia to decide whether to pay for their services or use alternative sources of cancer expertise.

The strategy suggests the networks, along with the National Cancer Action Team and NHS Improvement, which are also set to lose statutory funding, might “best offer their support to providers and commissioners through a more flexible, social enterprise-based approach”.