New national initiative to improve care of pancreatic and hepatocellular cancer patients across Scotland

8 August 2023

NHS Scotland has launched a new initiative with an innovative “Virtual Cancer Care Team” to speed up diagnosis and treatment for two of the most deadly forms of cancer.

The Scotland-wide two-year pilot project, included in the recently published Cancer Action Plan for Scotland, will help patients with suspected pancreatic cancer and people at risk of the most common form of liver cancer – hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

The new initiative is spearheaded by The Scottish HepatoPancreatoBiliary Network (SHPBN) and is funded by the Scottish Government, running until 2024.

Mr Ross Carter, a recently retired Consultant Surgeon, previously of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is the Clinical Lead for the pancreatic cancer strand of the project and Ms Anya Adair, a Consultant Surgeon within NHS Lothian is the Clinical Lead for the pilot project.

“The management of pancreatic and hepatocellular carcinoma can be complex and too often patients and their families are not provided with adequate information. This project aims to reduce delays in the care of patients and ensure support is provided”.

Ms Anya Adair – Clinical Lead for pilot project

A pathway improvement project has been created with a new National Virtual Cancer Care Team at the heart of this innovative approach.

This team will triage patients who have been referred by local health care teams for a suspicion of HCC or pancreatic cancer. The teams then work together to ensure earlier diagnostic and staging investigations take place, then make rapid referrals to regional multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs). This allows clinicians to swiftly begin appropriate treatment, reduces delays in care, and provides better support for patients and their families.

Dawn Crosby, Head of Scotland at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:

“This initiative is hugely welcome and a game-changer for people with the quickest killing cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer emergency with 70 per cent of people affected by this devastating disease not receiving any form of treatment. Tragically, for most people this means it is too late to save them. More than half die within three months of their diagnosis.

Focusing on offering faster diagnosis, and access to treatment and support from a specialist cancer nurse will be absolutely vital in giving patients across Scotland the very best chance of survival and quality of life.”

For more information on this project, contact nss.hpb@nhs.scot.