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Could taskforce report aid mesothelioma sufferers?

23 July 2015

Under new plans to improve patient treatment, NHS patients in England should be able to obtain results for cancer tests within 4 weeks of being referred from a GP by 2020.

By increasing specialist staff and replacing old radiotherapy machines, NHS England’s cancer taskforce is aiming to deliver “world class” cancer care.

Taskforce report

The cancer report from a taskforce set up by the NHS outlines how an additional 30,000 diagnosed patients every year could survive cancer for 10 years or more by 2020. Of these, 11,000 would survive through an earlier diagnosis from referral by their GP.

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The taskforce’s plan aims to make a considerable improvement to cancer care in England, which comes at a time when cancer cases are increasing in number. Current figures show that there will be more than 360,000 people diagnosed with a cancer each year by 2030, and one in two people will develop a cancer at some point in their lives.

Strategic priorities

The significant rise in cancer cases, steered predominantly by the UK’s ageing population, means that NHS cancer services are under an unprecedented pressure.

Resolving this pressure has been a key focus for the taskforce, which has come up with 6 strategic goals to achieve by 2020.

A radical upgrade in prevention and public health: This strategy outlines how the NHS should work with the Government to improve public health, including embracing a new tobacco control strategy within the next 12 months.

A national ambition to achieve earlier diagnosis: The ambition set out is that, by 2020, 95% of patients referred for testing by a GP are definitively diagnosed with cancer, or cancer is ruled out, and that patients get this result within 4 weeks.

Patient experience on par with clinical effectiveness and safety: The strategy recommends giving all consenting patients electronic access to all test results and other communications involving further care by 2020.

Transformation of support for people living with and beyond cancer: By 2020, every person with cancer should have access to elements of a “Recovery Package” – a comprehensive plan that outlines treatment as well as post-treatment support and care.

Investment to deliver a modern, high-quality service, including:

  • A replacement plan for radiotherapy machines as they reach 10 years and upgrading of existing machines by the time they have been in operation for 6 years;
  • A permanent and sustainable model for the Cancer Drugs Fund to help patients get access to innovative cancer treatments;
  • A nationally-commissioned, regionally-delivered, molecular diagnostics service, to guide more personalised prevention, screening and treatment;
  • Plans to address official deficits in the cancer workforce.

Overhauled processes for commissioning, accountability and provision: Clearer explanations need to be set by the end of 2015 for how cancer services should be commissioned, with most treatment then being commissioned at population sizes above Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) levels.

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The taskforce has recommended that a National Cancer Team should oversee the delivery of the strategies.

Could these strategies help those suffering with mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused, in the vast majority of cases, by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

It is quite a rare cancer, but it is becoming increasingly more common. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that more than 2,500 people are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in the UK each year and according to the Department for Health and Pensions, 53,000 people will die from pleural mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037.

Mesothelioma, as well as asbestos-related lung cancer, is notoriously difficult to treat. Any form of improvement to a patient’s healthcare or a speedier diagnosis could greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma has no cure. Recent studies are hoping to change this (you can read more about one such study here ), but currently improvements struggle to alter the prognosis of those suffering with mesothelioma.

Could these strategies help those suffering with an asbestos-related lung cancer?

Lung cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, but survival rates are constantly improving.

In the past decade there have been significant advances in lung cancer treatment.

The improvements in prevention and public health could help to reduce the amount of people who smoke, and therefore reduce the amount of secondary smoke that non-smokers are forced to inhale as a consequence.

Although these advances have aided in the rise of survival rates in asbestos-related lung cancer victims, the best approach for a higher survival rate has always been an early diagnosis.

If these strategies help a patient to be diagnosed in a shorter amount of time, survival rates in asbestos-related lung cancers could greatly improve.

Struggles

The health service has been struggling to meet waiting times and has seen resources reduced.

The improvements will cost £400 million a year, but the taskforce believes that in the long term, this will be recouped as better care costs less money and an earlier diagnosis could reduce treatment time.

For example, some cancers caught at a late stage costs 4 times as much to treat as when it is caught early.

Further reading

What is mesothelioma?

Cancer diagnosis ‘within four weeks’ under new care plan

Taskforce report aims to boost cancer survival and transform patient experience

Cancer: the challenge facing the NHS


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