A new report released by Cancer Research UK has highlighted inadequacies in Wales’ approach to cancer prevention and treatment and suggests that Wales is now slipping behind both Scotland and England.
The report highlights the importance of cancer plans in setting direction, ensuring best use of resources to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, improving cancer outcomes.
Worryingly, one of its first substantive overarching recommendations is that:
“A more comprehensive plan should be developed to ensure consistent delivery, implementation and integration across Wales.” (Page 4)
Commenting, Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
“Cancer Research UK are well respected body and the Welsh Assembly Government needs to consider their findings very carefully.
“This report adds to an increasing body of evidence suggesting that in important areas in healthcare, Wales is now slipping behind England, despite spending more per head on our health services.
“The criticisms of the Labour/Plaid Government’s stewardship of the NHS in Wales and the failure to develop proper strategies to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer are stark. The Government must now set out how it will address the failures identified in the report.”
Whilst the high level cancer strategies adopted in England and Scotland were well regarded, the report notes:
“Interviews conducted in Wales demonstrated a markedly different picture. Healthcare professionals and policy-makers felt that cancer has not been given enough priority in Wales”
“I am not sure where the performance management role lies. Who is going to make the new Health Boards do these things.” (Page 15)
“The Assembly gave £4.5 million to implement the 2005 Cancer Standards, which across Wales is not very much really.” (Page 15)
Other recommendations and concerns highlighted in the report include:
Recommendation 2: “Legislation to regulate the use of sunbeds is welcomed but supportive regulations should be developed and implemented to ensure maximum effectiveness of the measures” (Page 4)
Recommendation 36: Survivorship is an important and emerging policy area, which should be fully embedded in the patient care pathway. (Page 7)
Screening is highlighted as an area of particular concern:
“Significant progress has been made in England to raise awareness of the importance of earlier diagnosis….Implementation in Wales has been patchy and should be given higher priority” (Page 34)
Designed to Tackle Cancer [in Wales] states that the national screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer should continue to improve detection rates. However, it does not set out how this is achieved. (Page 37)
“Designed to Tackle Cancer outlines concerns that the future of Cervical Screening Wales is vulnerable because of a national shortage of histopathologists and cytologists and that the Breast Test Wales Programme was vulnerable due to a national shortage of breast radiologists, surgeons and radiographers leading to difficulties in expansion in the future. Although this is highlighted as a key area for concern, there is no action outlined to address these concerns.” (Page 37)
Access to radiotherapy in parts of Wales is highlighted as an issue:
“There remain concerns about reduced capacity due to staffing issues in the more rural North Wales” (Page 46)
Chemotherapy and access to medicines:
“Participants at the expert group meeting in Wales suggested that there were problems in planning for the delivery of chemotherapy services. In particular, they suggested that there were problems in assessing demand for chemotherapy.” (Page 50)
“In Wales, we were concerned to hear that there was no coordinated plan to deliver information to cancer patients. Experts reported that delivery of patient information varied significantly across Wales.”(Page 56)
“In Wales, experts were concerned about literacy and the difficulty of developing methods of communication for people who had problems with reading. (Page 56)
A patient experience survey should be carried out on “a biennial basis”. (Page 58)
Improving cancer outcomes: An analysis of the implementation of the UK’s cancer strategies 2006–2010 was published by Cancer Research UK earlier this month and can be found here