NHS Wales Eyes Danish Cancer Lessons

NHS Wales is considering making innovative changes to the way that it deals with cancer, amid advice from the Danish health service.

It has been noted that UK nations have some of the poorest cancer survival rates among developed countries.

And international experts have stepped in to offer NHS Wales advice on how to move forward, with Denmark proving to be a particular ideal model in its treatment of cancer.

Prof Frede Olesen from University of Aarhus believes that the Welsh can learn a considerable amount from the Danish approach to the subject, which has achieved a huge amount in diagnosing and treating patients with less obvious forms of cancer.

Oleser asserts that part of the reason Wales is lagging behind many other countries is that patients too often wait too long for a diagnosis.

This results in many cancer patients receiving treatment at a relatively late stage of development, and sometimes the disease is completely incurable by then.

Denmark has transformed the way its health service delivers cancer care, after international research suggested it was performing poorly compared to other developed countries.

And essential to these changes has been in the decision of the Danish health service to develop a system related to swifter diagnostic tests.

When such tests are carried out on patients who are suffering from illnesses without any specific symptoms of cancer then the survival rate can be increased significantly.

Research now indicates that Denmark is closing the gap with the best performing countries on cancer survival.

And Olesen attributed this to the diagnostic changes that have been made in the Scandinavian country over the last few years.

“We can’t say for sure yet whether it’s the waits, better treatment, concentration of treatment or better equipment, but there have been calculations showing that waits really matter. In my perception, there is no doubt shorter waits mean better prognosis.”

The view of Olesen is corroborated by Dr Tom Crosby, medical director of the Wales Cancer Network.

Crosby believes that Wales is fundamentally failing in this health area, and that addressing the issue by implementing similar policy should be considered advisable.

“What they’ve demonstrated [in Denmark] is that what’s taking us weeks and months in Wales to diagnose patients, particularly with those vague and non specific symptoms, they’re now doing in a matter of days and there’s nothing they’re doing here that we can’t do in Wales.”

Nonetheless, Crosby also stated that cancer patients in Wales are generally well treated in hospital, but asserted that survival rates need to be improved considerably.

“This is more than just statistics, we know survival needs to improve but also it’s devastating for us to see patients who complained of vague or non specific symptoms for months to be ultimately diagnosed with incurable disease.”


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