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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."

'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

Lack of training leaves 63% of carers 'distressed'

Macmillan Cancer Support surveyed over 2,000 carers to find out how they were coping with helping to treat a patient on a day-to-day basis.

The health charity found:

  • Of those with no or inadequate training, 63% had been left feeling distressed.
  • And 50% said caring for a loved one with cancer left them feeling frightened.
  • Over one in three, 34%, worried their loved one would need to take a trip to the hospital.
  • Of those who perform healthcare tasks, 36% have had to urgently call a doctor or 999 to get support or advice on how to help the person they care for.


Macmillan: Carers feeling helpless without training

Carers tending to a cancer sufferer are performing tasks they are not trained to do properly and often feel overwhelmed, a leading health charity has found.

Many carers struggle to administer injections because they have not been trained to use a syringe, Macmillan Cancer Support has found. Credit: PA

Around 240,000 people care for a cancer patient who will require injections, a catheter and a change of bandages but 53% of those say they have had little or no instruction from a healthcare professional.

One in five, 21%, cancer carers who had received some training said it was not enough.

Macmillan is now calling for changes to be made to the care bill, which was discussed in the House of Lords last week, to ensure the NHS in England supports cancer carers.

Chief nursing officer: Care and compassion a priority

Commenting on research conducted for Macmillan Cancer Support, Jane Cummings, NHS England's chief nursing officer, said: "I am committed to taking action to make sure that all patients receive the highest standard of care and that they are always treated with compassion and dignity.

NHS England's chief nursing officer says she is committed to ensuring quality care and compassion for patients. Credit: Press Assocation

"Our Compassion in Practice strategy sets out exactly how we can deliver the '6Cs' - care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. These are the core elements of our vision."

She said compassion "comes naturally to the overwhelming majority of staff," but added: "Sadly some people do not have the capacity to be compassionate and caring despite training and support. They have no place in the NHS.

"We only want staff who come to work to make a difference for their patients and are prepared to take personal responsibility for individuals in their care."

Macmillan: Hospital culture 'puts targets over care'

Research commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, of 2,217 adults living with cancer about their hospital treatment found a "lack of basic care, dignity and respect" for some patients, according to the charity.

The lack of basic care, dignity and respect experienced by cancer patients in hospital is shocking.

Giving patients a positive experience when they're in hospital is as important as good medical care but sadly there's still a culture in some hospitals where hitting targets is put before the compassionate care of patients.

– Mike Hobday of Macmillan Cancer Support

Poll surveys cancer patients' treatment in hospital

A YouGov survey, commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, of 2,217 adults living with cancer found 18,000 patients have their medical files lost every year in hospitals.

Other findings of the poll included:

  • Just over one in five patients had felt patronised by hospital staff
  • 15 percent of patients said they had felt humiliated by the nurses treating them at some point
  • 14 percent of cancer patients who requested help to go to the toilet said they were forced to wait at least 30 minutes for assistance
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