We welcome the Royal College of Physicians' new toolkit 'Acute oncology on the acute medical unit' released today which aims to help doctors improve the care of cancer patients admitted to hospital as an emergency with medical problems due to their cancer or their treatment.
One in five cancer-related emergencies are due to cancer being suspected or confirmed for the first time. Patients admitted in an emergency may see doctors and nurses who do not specialise in cancer, which may lead to poorer care.
The toolkit stresses the importance of patients having access to cancer specialists as soon as possible, and suggests NHS Trusts set up acute oncology services, which can work with the team in the acute medical unit to help in the management of patients with acute oncology problems.
This is an issue we highlighted in our recent policy briefing, Every Life Matters: the real cost of pancreatic cancer diagnoses via emergency admission in which we called for local commissioners to commission providers to offer Rapid Access Clinics to pancreatic cancer patients, for instance a jaundice clinic. This would offer a more appropriate and streamlined service for patients with sudden onset emergency symptoms.
Currently over half of all pancreatic cancer diagnoses in England are made as a result of an emergency presentation, double the average rate of all other cancers. Survival rates for patients diagnosed via this route are also significantly lower with one-year survival at only 9% compared to 26% for those diagnosed as a result of a GP referral.