The Government’s 2015 Cancer Strategy is failing to support blood cancer patients in the UK and care must improve, an MP inquiry has found.
As blood cancer symptoms can be vague, patients often have to visit their GP significantly more times than other cancer patients before being referred to hospital for diagnosis, which can delay treatment and impact outcomes.
To address this, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer (APPGBC) is calling on GPs to immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer.
Also highlighted by the Group is the “urgent need” for better education and training for doctors and medical students to speed up diagnoses.
To further improve the picture for patients, NHS England should ensure that psychological and emotional support is available to patients and families from the point of diagnosis and throughout treatment.
The report also recommends that all patients are assigned a clinical nurse specialist, ongoing investment in public awareness campaigns, continued government investment in blood cancer research and clinical trials and more cohesive working between primary and secondary health services, and between oncology and haematology teams.
“Whilst the Cancer Strategy is a welcome document that makes many important recommendations on improving patient experience and outcomes, the specific needs of blood cancer patients are not being fully met,” said Henry Smith MP, chair of the APPGBC.
“My hope is that the practical recommendations set out here will help to shape the future of blood cancer care and that these hidden cancers will be placed firmly on the political agenda.”
Commenting on the report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, stressed that “any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.
"What is certainly needed for GPs to continue doing a good job at identifying any cancers in a timely way, is better access to diagnostic tools in the community, so that we can appropriately investigate and refer patients as well as we can.”
Around 240,000 people are currently thought to be living with blood cancer in the UK.