Nine of London's NHS Trusts are at the bottom of a league table measuring cancer patient experience across England, according to new data released by charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

Following on from the Department of Health's release of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey last month, Macmillan has published a league table which reveals that Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is the poorest-performing Trust on cancer patient experience for the second year running.

The best-performing Trust, also for the second year, is Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

The league table compares the performance of hospitals across England based on measures of patients' experiences while being treated in hospital, such as: - whether their diagnosis and treatment options were explained clearly to them; - whether they felt supported in their care; and - whether they felt they were treated with respect.

Patient experience is as vital as treatment to a cancer patient's quality of life, says Macmillan.

"Though many hospitals have made an improvement, far too many cancer patients are being let down by hospitals failing to provide an adequate level of care. Patient experience and non-clinical needs must be given as much priority as medical activities," said Ciaran Devine, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Patient experience is one of the government's five key measures for success in the NHS, so Trusts need to take heed and work with Macmillan and others to urgently improve the care they offer cancer patients," he said.

"Imperial, while still at the bottom of the table, is committed to addressing the problem and working well with Macmillan and cancer patients. But these things take time, and won't happen if they do not have sustained, top-level commitment," Mr Devine added.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust scored particularly badly on areas such as whether outpatients were seen early or within 30 minutes of appointments - at 54% compared with a national average of 70%. Also, patients' ease of access to their clinical nurse specialists at the Trust had gone down from 66% in 2010 to 60% last year. However, last year 76% of patients at the Trust had their first appointment with a hospital doctor as soon as they thought was necessary, compared with 70% in 2010.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust scored highly on giving patients easy-to-understand written information about tests, at 98% compared with a national average of 86%. The Trust also showed an improvement in ward nurses answering nearly all questions patients asked, at 84% compared with 73% the year before.

The most improved Trust is Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, says Macmillan, which also notes that nine out of 10 of the bottom Trusts are in London, while eight of the top-performing Trusts are in the North of England.  

The research also shows that breast cancer patients in England have the best patient experience, while sarcoma patients continue to have the poorest.

"Hospitals are constantly having to hit targets around cleanliness and safety but not for how you treat a person - this needs to change," said Professor Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support.

"It is absolutely vital that patient experience is prioritised as it can make such a real difference to how patients recover from gruelling cancer treatment,” she stressed.

Other areas for concern highlighted in the survey were whether patients were given enough support from health and social services when they left hospital, and whether they were given the right emotion support or told about financial information. 

The Macmillan survey does not cover the medical treatments patients received, such as standards of chemotherapy or surgery.