New Cancer Strategy for England
In January, NHS England announced plans to develop a new Cancer Strategy for the next five years, setting up an independent ‘Cancer Task Force’ to help them do so.
This Task Force is being Chaired by the Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar, and is made up of cancer doctors, patient groups and charity leaders. We are delighted that our very own Clara Mackay (pictured above), in her capacity as Chair of Cancer 52, is part of the Task Force.
To aid in creating a new cancer strategy for England, the Task Force recently did two things:
- Took evidence from interested parties. We were pleased to take part in this through a workshop of charities on 9th February.
- Asked for written submissions, highlighting three key areas that interested parties (that would be us!) thought needed addressing in the new cancer strategy.
In our submission we flagged up these major themes that we believe need to be addressed if pancreatic cancer survival rates, treatment and care is to be improved:
There needs to be a specific focus on cancers with the lowest survival rates.
Cancers with the lowest survival rates are often termed ‘cancers of unmet need’, and of course, pancreatic cancer is one of them.
We recently saw Cancer Research UK’s Research Strategy call for increased funding for cancer types with 10 year survival rates of less than 15%. We don’t need to tell you, that with less than 1% ten year survival, pancreatic cancer definitely falls into this category.
We have urged that England’s new cancer strategy should include a specific pledge to drive up survival rates for this group of cancers, to ensure that any general progress in cancer survival rates doesn’t mask the fact that there has been no specific progress for cancers like pancreatic.
We also called for specific actions such as:
- increased research spending
- earlier access to new treatments.
However it is structured, we feel the Strategy needs to specifically address cancers with the lowest survival rates.
A commitment to developing faster referral pathways
We would like to see a commitment from the NHS to improve:
- diagnostic pathways between primary and secondary care (e.g. improving the speed with which patients are referred for CT scans)
- referral pathways from secondary care to specialist centres once there is a suspicion of pancreatic cancer.
We know that many patients are still not being referred from secondary care to a specialist centre or Multi-Disciplinary Team as quickly as they ought to be, and this can delay a diagnosis and therefore reduce treatment options once a diagnosis is made.
Finally we urged more holistic patient care*. We need:
- enough Cancer Nurse Specialists to support patients and their families
- early and consistent access to specialist nutritional and dietary advice
- quality end of life care, with patients supported to achieve a good and dignified death;
- And, importantly, appropriate bereavement counselling and support for family members who lose loved ones, who often lose any support they may have had when their family member passes away.
The Task Force will publish an interim report in March and we will continue to play a role in the development of a new Cancer Strategy for England over the coming months, acting as a voice for pancreatic cancer patients throughout the process. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for new updates and blog posts!
* Holistic care means treating the whole person, including physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. It might involve things like nutrition, exercise, complementary medicine and meditation alongside standard medicine. It’s based on the idea is that there is a link between our physical health and our more general 'well-being'.