Travel times and cancer outcomes


In July 2015 an Independent Cancer Taskforce published “Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020”. The report made 96 recommendations for improving cancer services and delivering benefits for patients. Recommendation 27 was an action for NCIN (now the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service):

NCIN should undertake an up-to-date evaluation of the impact on cancer outcomes of patients living different distances from a cancer Centre. Historical data suggested that longer distance from a Centre results in lower probability of curative treatment. We need to understand if this is still the case.

As a result NCRAS has produced three short reports.

Outputs available

The short report Travel Times and Methodology summarises NCRAS’ investigations of several possible ways of calculating travel times.

The short report Travel Times and Cancer Survival is an overview of survival for the four most common cancers, relative to travel time to the nearest hospital with a relevant multidisciplinary team (MDT).

The short report Travel Times and Cancer Treatment is a report on treatment with radiotherapy for localised prostate cancer, relative to travel time to a radiotherapy centre.


While a standard methodology is sought for routine publications, different research questions will require variations in the methodology used. Methodology should be tailored towards the question being asked. Identifying and defining cancer centres and specialist service providers remains a key challenge for travel time analysis. It is recommended that any project using a list of service providers transparently publishes this list, and that lists are reused where possible. It is acknowledged that minor changes in the time period covered or the question asked will require different lists of service providers.

Travel times to all major service providers have been pre-calculated, allowing data analysis by travel time without individual access to specialist software.