The inequality between health bodies in England in terms of one-year cancer survival estimates narrowed between 1998 and 2013, newly-released figures show.

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that over that 15-year period the percentage of cancer patients surviving longer than a year increased from 60% to 70%.

The difference between the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) with the highest and lowest survival rates narrowed from 13% to 11%. CCGs are the bodies responsible for planning and commissioning local health care services in England.

One-year cancer survival estimates are used by NHS England to monitor the performance of CCGs. Some CCGs also use the survival estimates to monitor their own performance and set strategic priorities.

How much have cancer survival estimates improved?

One-year cancer survival estimates by CCG, England 1998 to 2013

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In 1998 there was a 13 percentage point gap in one-year survival between the lowest (NHS Newham with 52%) and highest (NHS Leeds North with 65%) areas.

For patients aged 15 to 99, who were diagnosed in 2013, the gap between the lowest (NHS Newham at 64%) and highest (NHS Harrow & NHS Barnet at 75%) areas was 11 percentage points.

Overall, one-year survival estimates over the past 15 years have improved for each CCG.

NHS Central Manchester, NHS Hounslow and NHS South Kent Coast are examples of CCGs which have improved survival by more than 15 percentage points or more.

The smallest improvements of fewer than five percentage points were in NHS South Reading which improved from 62% in 1998 to 66% and NHS Crawley, which changed from 62% to 65%.

Find out how one-year survival estimates have changed in your area

One-year cancer survival estimates by CCG, England 1998 and 2013

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In general, the largest increases between 1998 and 2013 were in areas where survival was lower in 1998. For example, one-year survival in NHS Newham CCG (lowest survival estimate in 1998) increased by 12 percentage points between 1998 and 2013, and by 8 percentage points in NHS Leeds North CCG (highest survival estimate in 1998).

The average one-year survival increase for those CCGs ranked in the bottom 20% in 1998 increased by 13 percentage points - from 56% to 68% in 2013.

Those CCGs in the top 20% in 1998 saw an 8 percentage point rise in their one-year survival estimate, from 63% to 71% in 2013. However, those in the bottom group were starting from a lower survival estimate and therefore had greater room for improvement.

Some CCGs have seen dramatic changes in their survival ranking since 1998; NHS Hounslow has moved from the bottom 20% of all the CCGs to the top 20%, while NHS Swindon and NHS Scarborough & Ryedale have moved from the top 20% of survival to the bottom 20%.

Percentage point difference in one-year cancer survival estimates by CCG, England 1998 to 2013

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  • In 1998, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were responsible for the commissioning of health services, including cancer treatment. They were replaced by 211 CCGs in April 2013. This number has since been reduced to 209.

  • Although the current CCGs were not responsible for the commissioning of cancer services, these statistics give an indication of the relative changes in cancer survival for each CCG since 1998.

  • Cancer survival is only one set of information among a lot of other data available to measure the performance of the CCG. It should be seen as a guide to raise questions about the potential for improvement.

  • Not all cancer patients who live in the territory assigned to a CCG are registered with a GP practice included in that CCG.

  • Patterns of cancer occurrence by age, sex and type of cancer can shift quite quickly over time, especially in small areas. The survival estimates used in this piece are designed to reflect real change - it is intended to change only if cancer survival itself actually changes and for long-term monitoring of progress in overall cancer survival.