A new report out today by a coalition of cancer charities shows that cancer patients in the UK need better integrated care.
The Cancer Campaigning Group, who wrote the report, calls for greater interest in the experience of patients and carers when developing cancer services as the NHS goes through its period of reform in order to achieve better cancer outcomes.
In April, the UK Government passed the Health and Social Care Act that put more emphasis on competition for services within the NHS, while also drastically changing the management system by abolishing PCTs and SHAs, and replacing them with new groups led my family doctors.
But there is concern that too much focus has been placed on competition at the expense of integration, which some observers believe could lead to poor care for patients.
The new report argues that integration is key for better cancer services, saying this is what cancer patients also want. The authors of the report surveyed people living with cancer, and their carers, and found that one in three respondents thought they had experienced integrated or joined-up care, with a number saying their experience of these integrated services was “very positive”.
The report’s authors say this indicates that it is possible to provide an integrated pattern of care and that best practice exists in the NHS.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, which is a member of the Campaigning Group, said: “While it is encouraging that some patients are experiencing integrated care, there are still too many who struggle through their cancer journey without adequate support. Having access to a multi-disciplinary team, which brings together all the key people involved in a patient’s treatment, is essential. This helps to deliver seamless care, so bowel cancer patients don’t encounter problems such as waiting for referrals and test results, or repeating their records to numerous different people. We want to see more people with bowel cancer gaining access to these specialist teams, so patients can be fully supported in making decisions about their care and treatment.”
More help for cancer patients
But the results of the survey also indicate that more could be done to improve the experience of cancer patients in the NHS, and it highlights five key areas where patients thought improvements could be made to deliver integrated care. These are:
• Securing quicker referral from GPs to hospitals for testing and diagnosis
• Ensuring patients find out the results of their tests as quickly as possible
• Providing patients with access to a named clinical nurse specialist or other ‘key worker’ throughout the care pathway
• Supporting patients to feel involved in key decisions about their treatment and care
• Putting systems in place to make sure records and test results are available to all clinicians and staff involved in patients’ care.