The NHS Five Year Forward View plan published this week by NHS England sets out a blueprint for an improved National Health Service that could have a significant impact on blood cancer patients in England.
The document addresses many broad issues currently facing the NHS, including disease prevention, public health, rising demand and funding constraints. The report also focuses on cancer care, calling for improvements in “faster diagnosis and more uniform treatment for cancer” over the next five years, recognising that there are “unacceptable variations in care” across the country.
Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research welcomes many parts of the plan, especially the emphasis on improving cancer diagnosis. Around 38,000 people will develop a blood cancer or related blood disorders each year in the UK and far too many of these patients will struggle to get a quick and accurate diagnosis.
According to the 2013 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, 37% of patients with blood cancer had to see their GPs more than twice before they were referred to hospital, compared to just 26% of cancer patients overall.
Chris West, Head of Media & Public Affairs at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said “We know that urgent action is needed to improve diagnosis for patients with blood cancer. Symptoms for these cancers can be hard to spot and are often mistaken for less serious illnesses. We welcome acknowledgement that greater awareness of symptoms is needed both among GPs and the public, along with closer working between GPs and cancer specialists.
“There are many other recommendations of Forward View that are admirable, including commitments to reduce inequalities in services provision and promoting a move towards more personalised cancer treatment. As a charity that pioneered the use of personalised therapies in the treatment of blood cancer patients, we welcome the opportunity to share that knowledge across the NHS.
“The report states “If the steps we set out in this Forward View are implemented and the NHS continues to be properly resourced, patients will reap benefits”. The political will must be there if the vision set out in this report is to be realised. There are many core areas in which blood cancer patients’ needs are not being met, with some solutions more complex than others. The Forward View is a good start and we look forward to working with NHS England and the rest of the cancer community to make sure it is implemented.”