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What is the national ovarian cancer audit?

11 June 2021

Ovarian Cancer Action Mum and Daughter on bench.jpg

What the upcoming national ovarian cancer audit means for women with ovarian cancer

Last month we celebrated NHS England’s big announcement that they are commissioning a national ovarian cancer audit in a game-changing bid to boost outcomes for women diagnosed with the disease. An audit has the potential to transform ovarian cancer survival rates in this country and it is something we’ve been campaigning for over a decade.

What is a ‘clinical audit’?

There’s no getting away from the fact that the words ‘clinical audit’ sound pretty dry, and may even conjure images of spreadsheets, officials in grey suits and heaps of unintelligible numbers. In reality, a clinical audit is about data, but behind every number is a woman with ovarian cancer.

An audit is a tried and tested tool used in health care to reveal and tackle health inequalities and improve patient outcomes. Vital statistics are collected from hospitals around the country to identify differences (both good and bad) in the management of patients and, by analysing that data, health professions can make improvements where they’re needed most. 

Previous audits have already improved survival rates in lung, bowel, head and neck and oesophageal-gastric cancers. Similar progress in ovarian cancer is greatly needed. 

Why do we need an ovarian cancer audit?

The UK currently has one of the lowest ovarian cancer survival rates in Europe. But, the best survival rates in the UK match the highest in the world. There is a huge variation in equal access to the best care across the country, and we believe every woman should have the same chance of early diagnosis and high-quality treatment regardless of where she lives. 

Thanks to our Ovarian Cancer Audit Feasibility Pilot we do know that there are not just one but several inequalities at play within England when it comes to early diagnosis, treatment and survival - and where to start looking if we want to improve outcomes. But the data and findings from our feasibility pilot, however significant, form only one piece of the puzzle. 

The government’s national audit is a long-awaited pledge to do better for generations of women facing a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Marie-Claire Platt, Head of Public Affairs and Research

A government-funded national clinical audit is huge news as it will collect the missing data we need to get the full picture. It will map out ovarian cancer patients’ journeys around the country from diagnosis onwards, to highlight best practice and identify where we can make the biggest difference to survival.

The government’s national audit is a long-awaited pledge to do better for generations of women facing a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

How you helped us get here

We’ve been campaigning for a national government-funded audit for almost a decade and we’re so grateful to all our passionate supporters who added their voices to our call. In 2018, we were overwhelmed when 12,427 of you signed OCA supporter Gemma Carroll’s government petition to the to fund a national audit, and others wrote to their local MP inviting them to join our ranks. 

Thank you also for helping us promote the findings from our Ovarian Cancer Audit Feasibility Pilot, which we co-funded with Target Ovarian Cancer and the British Gynaecological Cancer Society. The feasibility pilot played a key role in the government’s decision to commission a full-scale audit by revealing how urgent it was to tackle the variation in ovarian cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival around the country.

What next?

No woman should be left behind as we work together to transform ovarian cancer treatment and survival in the UK. While the national audit gets underway in England, and findings from Scotland's audit are embedded, we’ll continue our efforts to campaign for a national audit in Wales and for Northern Ireland to update the findings from their previous audits. Keep your eyes peeled for the next opportunity to make change happen.