130,000 Patients Missing out on Critical Cancer Care Annually

Over 130,000 patients a year are being denied vital cancer care, due to struggling NHS systems.

The growing number of patients suffering from cancer is creating a deficit in treatment.

A total of 132,138 patients in England last year did not see a cancer specialist within the required 14 days, begin surgery or radiotherapy within the supposed maximum 31 after diagnosis, or 62 days after initial consultation and tests, according to figures released by Cancer Research UK.

Commenting on the issue, Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, suggested that the seriousness of the statistics should not be underestimated.

“These figures are alarming. The number of people for whom these targets are being missed is a real source of concern. Delay creates additional anxiety for people. That matters for individual patients affected in a precise way because they have a prolonged period of uncertainty. Do I have cancer or do I not? And if I do have cancer, will it be curable?”

Johnson went on to outline the consequences of such delays.

“In some cases delays may even mean the chance to give curative treatment may be lost. Delays mean that there will be some people whose cancer gets worse while they wait for the result [of a test]. I’m pretty angry about that. This all reflects a system that’s failing to meet the needs of people with cancer or suspected cancer.”

Indeed, the NHS has failed to meet any of its cancer targets since 2014.

In that time, 57,112 people have had to wait longer than that for supposedly urgent care, NHS England statistics concede.

Dr Richard Roope, the Royal College of GPs’ spokesman on cancer, is in no doubt about the problems caused by the current failure to get on top of cancer treatment.

“We now have a situation where most hospitals don’t meet their targets to start treating people within 62 days of referral with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. That’s regrettable for patients because for an affected patient any extension of those 62 days is both psychologically challenging and damaging both for them and their loved ones. There’s always the worry that that delay might affect your outcome and that in some cases it will mean the cancer is more advanced at the time of treatment, which will then be detrimental to the outcome – it could reduce their chances of survival.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health attempted to defend the performance of the NHS and the healthcare establishment.

“Cancer survival rates have never been higher and just this week the NHS announced a new £130m investment to kickstart the upgrade of radiotherapy equipment and transform cancer treatment across England. The reality is the NHS is seeing over 90% more patients with suspected cancer within two weeks – that’s over 800,000 more people – and treating nearly 50,000 more patients following a GP referral compared to 2010.”

Perhaps the failure to meet these targets can once again be cited as evidence that targets set for the NHS are too stringent.

But it is clear that this is another area of the healthcare system struggling to cope with public demand.

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Suffolk Primary Care ‘Mega-Partnership’ to be Toned Down

A so called mega-partnership planned for the Suffolk region has been significantly reduced in size following logistical concerns.

The Suffolk GP Federation undicated that its intention to create a 540,000-patient GP partnership will need to be scaled down massively.

Instead, the federation will form a single partnership with approximately 113,000 patients, which is considered to be much more viable for the organisation.

Known as Suffolk Primary Care, the partnership will still become one of the largest in the UK, comprising 14 GP surgeries located across the county of Suffolk.

Plans are afoot to lunch the new partnership in April 2017.

The new initiative will be the first partnership of this nature launched in the East Anglia region, even though such super-partnerships have emerged in other areas of the country.

There have been a number of other large practice mergers, including a giant East Midlands practice, formed of 62 partners.

Suffolk Primary Care will be backed by local clinical commissioning groups, with £56,000 of the funding having been provided by these organisations.

The new partnership model has been put in place owing to recruitment difficulties in the region, with the newly emerging organisation issuing a statement on the subject.

Suffolk Primary Care noted that “difficulties replacing retiring GPs, a rapid rise in the needs of an ageing population and ongoing concerns around finances have put general practice and the rest of the NHS under great strain” had motivated the realisation of this new structure.

GP practices within the partnership will begin to work in closer collaboration, initially starting with paperwork and administration to help cut duplication.

Early priorities will include offering better career opportunities to help address the current recruitment crisis.

It is also believed that new models of delivering care will also be implemented eventually, with discussions on this matter already underway.

Doctors could then be supported by other healthcare professionals, with pharmacists, physiotherapists and other qualified individuals lending a hand in the everyday work of GPs.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer for NHS Ipswich CCG and NHS East and West Suffolk CCGs, believed that Suffolk Primary Care would be an innovative organisation that could be a leader and a example to other NHS regions.

“This partnership strategy is one way of addressing the issues facing GP practices. We will strive to support other practices which, in the future, choose a different model for the positive development of primary care services.”

The practices involved in the Suffolk mega merger are as follows:

– Brandon Medical Practice, Brandon
– Combs Ford Surgery, Stowmarket
– Deben Road Surgery, Ipswich
– Debenham Group Practice, Debenham
– Glemsford Surgery, Glemsford
– Haven Health Surgery, Felixstowe
– Howard House Surgery, Felixstowe
– Lakenheath Surgery, Lakenheath
– Leiston Surgery, Leiston
– Norwich Road Surgery, Ipswich
– Oakfield Surgery, Newmarket
– Orchard House Surgery, Newmarket
– Stowhealth, Stowmarket
– Walton Surgery, Felixstowe

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NHS-Funded Course Investigates Mindfulness Solutions to Depression

A new course in Launceston aims to teach skills in ‘mindfulness’ in an attempt to ensure that NHS workers are able to cope with anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness is a modern movement, appropriated from ancient Buddhist roots, and clinically innovated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The practice of mindfulness involves being aware moment-to-moment, of one’s subjective conscious experience from a first-person perspective.

Life Balance from Outlook South West is a six-week course, which attempts to teach people new ways to cope with negative feelings, unwelcome thoughts, anxiety and low mood via this well-known approach.

Although the course is open to the general public, organisers have stated that they are particularly keen to attract workers in healthcare environments.

The two-hour sessions will start on 2nd March, and will continue to take place every Wednesday afternoon from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.

Central to the ethos of the life balance program is a new psychological approach referred to as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Kevin Simpson, a clinical psychologist with Outlook South West who runs the new courses, is extremely positive about the benefits of this new technique, and believes that people all over the UK can benefit from getting involved.

“ACT is proving to be an excellent approach for people who are suffering from anxiety and depression. The results have shown it’s also great for people who have low self-esteem or self-confidence.”

Simpson went on to explain the problems that people encounter with mental difficulties in their everyday lives.

“The problem is that we don’t tend to be able to move forward with our lives when we are struggling with difficult thoughts and feelings. There is often a constant battle to control, mask or avoid them, and this often just makes things worse. This course provides a crash-course in mindfulness and aims to help people break out of their comfort zones to live a more fulfilling life and to take greater care of their health.”

Although the existing course is taking place in Cornwall, it is hoped that the process can be successfully migrated to other regions of the UK over time.

Depression is extremely common in the UK; one in five people become depressed at some point in their lives.

Adults in Cornwall who are over 16 can register for a free place without GP referral by calling 01208 871905 or visiting www.outlooksw.co.uk/life-balance for more details.

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