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Why can't the media focus on the positives?

11 September, 2013

It has been a year of awful newspaper stories about the NHS: poor-quality care; failing hospitals and failing inspectorates; a broken 111 system; overburdened A&E departments; and, as ever, dreadful hospital food.

One could easily conclude that the NHS should be avoided at all costs - although the Competition Commission now tells us to avoid alleged gross-overcharging in the private healthcare sector too.

Across many polls, the general public view is that the NHS is pretty poor, which is unsurprising, given the negative reporting. Conversely, when asked about their own care, the vast majority of us rate it as excellent - a pattern reproduced across much of the public sector.

So it’s great to see the results of the latest national Cancer Patient Experience Survey, published last week by NHS England - the third of these annual surveys, which gathers the views of nearly 100,000 cancer patients.


The Department of Health has worked closely with a range of national cancer charities since 2010 and the survey programme has been designed to hear the ‘patient voice’ about cancer treatment - a voice that wants to be heard. Questionnaires were sent to all 116,000 cancer patients in treatment in 155 NHS Trusts in England and 64% responded.

Across 63 questions, there was a significant improvement in 31 and a deterioration in only four this year. The DH had reported similar improvements in the 2012 survey and a clear majority of trusts made substantial year-on-year improvements.

This year, 84% of patients said they were told sensitively that they had cancer; 88% rated their overall care as excellent or very good; 85% said they were given a choice of different types of treatment; and 88% were given the name of a cancer nurse specialist to guide them through the pathway of treatment, answer questions and support their family.

This last initiative was regarded by many to be the most important driver of their overall quality of care.

The cancer community internationally is impressed and keen to learn from the UK. Versions of the survey are already being used in Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. So it’s a great success story and evidence that in most local areas the NHS, councils and charities are working together closely and effectively.

What a shame the newspapers couldn’t see this too.

Daniel Ratchford
Chief Executive

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