Today is World Cancer Day. There is a great deal in the news about the state of cancer care and treatment across the world. Some of the English press are focusing on the latest cancer death rate statistics, which show a drop in the percentage of people dying from cancer. But the actual numbers of people being diagnosed – and dying – are growing. And so are the numbers of people living – often for many years – with the disease.
This is why it is so important to understand patients’ experience throughout all stages of their cancer journey: diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and death. Quality Health has run some large scale cancer surveys (in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) over the last few years that provide important data about some aspects of this. Most cancer patients have a positive experience of care; most speak highly of the staff treating them; and most are given good information about their condition, treatment and side effects. But there are still big variations between hospitals, and between different types of cancer.
We also work for a large number of smaller organisations – often in the voluntary sector – who specialise in particular aspects of cancer research and cancer care. And I’ve been particularly struck by the passion and dedication of so many in these organisations who I’ve met over the last year. The Clinical Nurse Specialists at Ashgate Hospicecare in Chesterfield, who provide such a crucial service for cancer patients in their area (and we know from our surveys that having a named CNS is the single most important driver of positive patient experience). The team at Breast Cancer Care, who are working so hard to understand the particular drivers of patient experience for women with secondary breast cancer. Myeloma UK, trying to understand more about the particular needs and treatment for the 15,000 in the UK with this disease. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, who are running a series of in-depth interviews with women to understand their experience of diagnosis, treatment and emotional support. The LGBT Forum, investigating the particular issues for cancer patients from non-heterosexual groups. The Teenage Cancer Trust, running amazing conferences for children from around the country to share their experiences of dealing with cancer at such a young age. And Cancer52, the umbrella body who have become such a powerful voice for the dozens of very small charities and patient groups that focus on rarer cancers.
This is really important work, and I’m really proud that Quality Health is able to support it. It directly affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients every day. And the numbers will only increase.