Cancer treatment is a “national shame”. Cancer isn’t fixed yet, says Macmillan

Chris Smyth reports in The Times 2nd May 2014: Cancer isn’t fixed yet, says Macmillan The waiting time for routine tests, where the Dr has not specified “urgent suspected cancer” means that there is inevitable delay, and fear is returning. Thus “British survival rates are the lowest of comparable countries for breast, lung, bowel and ovary cancers”, and are unlikely to rise until we ration out the cheap and cheerful high volume treatments that patients should have autonomy for. The fourth generation of citizens habituated to a free health service will not recognise its true value until someone says no – you cannot have everything for everyone for ever.

drugs_whenever you can afford it cartoon

One in three cancer patients will be dead within a year, while thousands more suffer a lack of compassion, according to a report on the “national shame” of Britain’s cancer treatment.

After Cancer Research UK hailed a tipping point in cancer treatment earlier this week with half of patients surviving at least 10 years, Macmillan Cancer Support challenged any notion that cancer was “fixed” .

It pointed out that tens of thousands of patients were still given a diagnosis too late to give them a chance, while survival in Britain lagged behind other rich countries. One in five patients said that they were treated as a “set of symptoms” rather than a person and one in six said doctors spoke to them as though they were not there, which Macmillan said were signs they were not being treated with compassion.

Patients in hospitals with unhappy staff were 18 times more likely to get poor care, a report by the charity found.

The report underscored the crucial importance of spotting cancers early. Many of the 32 per cent who die within a year will have discovered that they had cancer only when it was too late for life-saving treatment.

The report highlighted that one in four cancers was only picked up in A&E, when they are likely to be at an advanced stage that made treatment harder.Patients given a diagnosis this way were twice as likely to die as those referred by a GP.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Any notions that cancer care in the UK is ‘fixed’ are rubbished by our findings. While the NHS does amazing things every day, it is a national shame that our cancer survival rates are among the worst in Europe, that patients are being treated with a lack of dignity, or being denied a ‘good’ death.”

By 2020, about half the population will have cancer in their lifetimes, according to projections. “Cancer patients no longer either simply get cured or die. Many live a long-time but struggle with serious health problems,” Mr Devane said.

“With the number of people living with cancer set to increase, political parties must ask themselves — how will we cope with these growing numbers when we cannot even meet the needs of many people today?

British survival rates are the lowest of comparable countries for breast, lung, bowel and ovary cancers.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer, NHS England, said: “As Cancer Research UK showed last week, there’s been huge progress on cancer with over half of cancer patients now living at least a decade, compared with only a quarter of people who did so in the 1970s. But there is still wide and persistent variation, which means we need to do more.”

In Place of Fear A Free Health Service 1952 Chapter 5 In Place of Fear

The Mail comments: NHS cancer patients seen as ‘just a set of symptoms’: Report says chances of being cured hinge on where the patient lives and their age

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

1 thought on “Cancer treatment is a “national shame”. Cancer isn’t fixed yet, says Macmillan

  1. Pingback: NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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