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Progress made on cancer care 'now at risk'

Responding to a charity's warning about the rising numbers of patients waiting for tests that detect cancer, Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the country's cancer care is "at risk".

Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said 'All the progress made on cancer care in the last decade is now at risk'
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said 'All the progress made on cancer care in the last decade is now at risk' Credit: PA

"Patients are waiting longer for crucial tests - causing stress and real anguish for worried families," he said.

"Two weeks ago, the NHS missed the cancer treatment target for the first time ever and these delays have clearly played a part in that.

"All the progress made on cancer care in the last decade is now at risk."

'Cancer care in this country isn't fixed'

Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

It is extremely worrying that the proportion of people who face delays in receiving vital tests which can diagnose cancer has doubled since this time last year, from 1.1% to 2.2%.

...Once again, we see that cancer care in this country isn't fixed. The NHS is under strain and cancer risks being overlooked and not given the focus it needs.

Each individual hospital has a responsibility to meet these targets, or they risk putting a patient's best chance of survival at risk.

More: NHS scan and test delays 'worrying,' charity warns

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NHS scan and test delays 'worrying,' charity warns

A "worrying" number of patients are waiting more than the recommended six weeks for key diagnostics tests that detect cancer and other diseases, according to a charity.

A charity has raised concerns about the rising numbers of patients waiting for key diagnostics tests which detect cancer and other diseases.
A charity has raised concerns about the rising numbers of patients waiting for key diagnostics tests which detect cancer and other diseases. Credit: PA

Macmillan Cancer Support has raised concerns about the delays, which it said have reached a six-year high.

Latest NHS England figures show that 16,981 patients were waiting six weeks or more for 15 diagnostic tests including MRI and CT scans, audiology assessments or cardiac echos - or 2.2% of all of the patients waiting for such tests.

In April 2008, just 2,904 patients were waiting for these checks.

BMA: Older cancer patients must get 'care and respect'

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said the profession must "guarantee" that older cancer patients "are treated with care and respect" after claims some are denied treatment solely on their age.

It is important that all healthcare professionals ensure that patients are treated on the basis of their clinical need.

With an increasingly ageing population, it should be a key part of medical professionalism to guarantee that older patients are treated with the care and respect they deserve.

– Dr Mark Porter, the BMA's chairman of council

Age alone 'should not decide' cancer treatment fate

The charity has said many cancer sufferers in the UK are being denied treatment because they are deemed to be too old. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Macmillan Cancer Support said health workers should ensure decisions over cancer treatment take into account a patient's physical and mental health and not be based on age alone.

The National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), which carried out the research into pensioner survival rates alongside the charity, joined the call for wider assessment.

NCIN's clinical lead Dr Mick Peake said: "It is vital that all patients receive the best and most effective treatment based on the nature of their cancer and their fitness for treatment and that chronological age alone is not the deciding factor.

"We know that cancer survival rates in older patients in many other countries are better than in the UK and ensuring optimal treatment at all ages is the way of tackling this issue."

Charity says older cancer patients are being 'written off'

The UK and Ireland have a lower five-year survival rate than the rest of Europe for many cancers, the charity said. Credit: Andrew Parsons/PA Archive

A leading charity has warned cancer patients are being "written off" as being too old for treatment, saying assessments are ignoring fitness levels to judge on age alone.

Macmillan Cancer Support spoke out after finding more than 130,000 pensioners who have been diagnosed with cancer have gone on to live for at least a decade, including 8,000 patents over the age of 80.

The charity's chief executive, Ciaran Devane, said: "With a proper assessment and appropriate treatment, our research shows that many older cancer patients can live for a long time and can even be cured.

"The barriers to getting treatment - which include age discrimination and inadequate assessment methods - must be tackled now so more older people can survive cancer and live for many years."

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'Knock on effect' on patient when carer is isolated

When a carer is not supported it has a "knock on effect" on the patient, warned the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ciarán Devane wanted to see the duty placed on local authorities to identify carers in the care bill extended to the NHS as well.

Mr Devane was speaking to Daybreak after research by Macmillan Cancer Support exposed the extent to which carers have little to no training in medical tasks.

Govt: Care bill already provides for carers

The care bill already contains proposals designed to support carers, the care minister has said.

Norman Lamb agreed with Macmillian Cancer Support, that carers made "a huge contribution" to the UK, but continued with plans to have them identified by the local council, rather than the NHS.

Carers make a huge contribution to society and we want to do all we can to support them.

We agree that there needs to be better joint working and proposals already in the care bill will mean that local authorities will have to co-operate and work closely with the NHS to identify and support carers.

We have also provided £400 million to the NHS for carers breaks and given over £1.5 million of funding to help develop initiatives with GPs, nurses and carers organisations to train people to help support them in their caring roles.

– Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb

Macmillan: 'Nonsensical' for councils to identify carers

Serious changes should be made the to care bill, currently making its way through Parliament, to better support carers, a leading health charity has said.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said it was "nonsensical" that the care bill places a legal duty solely on local authorities to identify and support cancer carers.

Caring is a huge responsibility taken on out of duty and love. Families and carers are the backbone of society and they deserve to be supported.

Without support, cancer carers can go beyond breaking point which is bad for them and their loved one but is also costly to the NHS and ultimately to the taxpayer.

By identifying cancer carers and explaining what information and support is available, health professionals can vastly improve their quality of life and help them to continue caring - which is what they want to do.

– chief executive of macmillan Ciaran Devane

Caring without training leaves you 'vulnerable'

Carers are feeling increasingly vulnerable because they have not had enough training on the basics, like changing bandages or administering injections, a leading health charity found.

One such carer, Pamela Digney, from Lincolnshire, spoke to Macmillan about the challenges she faces looking after her husband Roy, 75, who had cancer removed from his spine:

My husband is paralysed from the waist down from his operation, so I have to help him with everything.

I have to administer morphine patches and liquid morphine for pain relief, as well as help him with his catheter. Infection control is also a constant concern.

I haven't been given adequate training or information to help with these things, and it leaves you feeling quite vulnerable when you have to do them on your own.

– Carer Pamela Digney
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