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East of England not ready for increase in cancer, charity warns

PUBLISHED: 07:23 30 March 2018 | UPDATED: 07:23 30 March 2018

The Macmillan Care & Treatment Centre sign at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Macmillan Care & Treatment Centre sign at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Only around 1 in 20 people in the east of England think the government is making the necessary preparations for the increasing number of people who will be diagnosed with cancer in the future.

Research from charity Macmillan Cancer Support revealed the concern alongside a host of other opinions on the NHS.

It found some 61pc of people in the east did not think the government was dealing with NHS pressures well - but 70pc of people felt NHS staff were doing a good job.

The survey asked a series of questions about the NHS, including people’s recent experience of using the health service and any problems they had encountered.

Most respondents said they experienced some kind of problem with the NHS. The most common was having to wait more than a week to book a GP appointment.

Among people who tried to book a GP appointment in the last 3 months, 18pc had to wait a week or longer between the date they booked the appointment and the date they had it, 17pc had to wait more than two weeks, and some were unable to get an appointment at all.

Macmillan Cancer Support warned current pressures will only increase when the NHS will be called to cope with an increasing number of people diagnosed and living with cancer. By 2030, an estimated 338,000 people are expected to be living with the disease in the east.

In 2015, there were around 207,000 people with cancer living in the area.

For many, delays meant patients felt more anxious or that their health had got worse or it had taken longer to recover.

Long waits for GP appointments can be particularly distressing if somebody suspects they have cancer, as not only can it cause longer periods of worry and anxiety, but it may also lead to cancer being diagnosed later, which is associated with more advanced disease and poorer prognosis.

Dr Andrew Yager, a Macmillan GP working in Suffolk said: “The NHS is under enormous pressure at the moment but despite this, steady improvements are being made which will be helped by transformation funding provided through the NHS Cancer Alliance and STPs. In Suffolk we intend to use this funding to improve early diagnosis and patient experience over the next two years.

“Macmillan has also been very supportive in helping us pilot a programme for eight pathway navigators to help steer cancer patients through their cancer journey, thereby improving concerns around access, communication and signposting. This will be facilitated by a training programme which we are currently exploring at The University of Suffolk.”

Cambridgeshire GP Dr Oliver Stovin, added: “In my opinion the issues and possible solutions are almost endless. The biggest issue is the increasing demands on GP time. A lot of what we are working on does involve a shift from secondary to primary care.

“Continuity of care and ‘old fashioned’ family practice in a community is what gave me my job satisfaction when I was working. That job satisfaction helps sustain you when it gets busy. I don’t know how easy it is to cope if things are busier and we become more of a production line. Non-clinical emails are going up and up, and with fewer partners and more sessional/salaried GPs it means more of the running of the practice falls to fewer GPs as well.”

Gwyneth Tyler, Macmillan Cancer Support’s head of service in the south and east of England, said: “We know that the cancer population in the east of England is increasing. It’s really important that people with cancer are able to access the best possible care, not only during their treatment and recovery, but from the moment they’re referred with suspected cancer.

“We know the NHS is facing unprecedented pressure and doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals across the east of England are working incredibly hard to meet the growing needs of patients. Macmillan is working hard with the NHS and healthcare professionals to meet the challenge and it is good to know that people have confidence in NHS staff. However, there are concerns from patients that cannot be ignored. It is crucial that the government and health service listen and act now to ensure that cancer care remains a top priority so the NHS can achieve its ambition to deliver world class cancer care.”

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