This summer the government announced an injection of funding for the NHS: an extra £20 billion a year until 2023 as part of a new NHS long term plan for the next decade.
The NHS sought feedback from the public, staff and service users about the improvements they’d like to see in NHS care via this consultation. We submitted a response, with input from our patient advisory panel, to highlight priorities for cancer care in the NHS long term plan.
In summary, we call for:
Holistic support from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond
Specialised and tailored support should be consistently available to all cancer patients across the UK. Many people with lymphoma have specific needs, particularly those living with a low-grade incurable cancer that might be managed for many years, including with active monitoring (watch and wait). Holistic support during and after cancer treatment would improve their quality of life on an emotional, psychological and physical level.
Recognition of rare cancers
There are 60 sub-types of lymphoma, some of which are very rare. It’s crucial that these are recognised and represented by policy-makers so patients get the best care possible. We need better data collection, improved reporting processes and greater awareness of the challenges posed in conducting large clinical trials of rare cancers.
Faster, accurate diagnosis
Lymphoma is notoriously hard to diagnose, with symptoms that can easily be mistaken for other conditions or circumstances. Healthcare professionals and the general public would benefit from a better understanding of lymphoma and the signs to look for – it is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Mobile, walk-in screening units; specialist diagnostic centres and digital apps to book prompt appointments would all help to ensure faster, accurate diagnoses.
All lymphoma patients should have a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to help co-ordinate their care. As well as their GP, people with lymphoma will see healthcare professionals in different settings and in different departments such as haematology and oncology. A CNS will have an overview of a patient’s care and be able to communicate this sensitively and supportively. Recruiting, retaining and training CNS staff should be an NHS priority for cancer care.
Better integration of services UK-wide
The NHS should work more closely with specialist services such as those offered by Lymphoma Action and support services should be integrated throughout the NHS. At present, there are many good programmes but they have patchy coverage, so not everyone can access the support they need. Clear, joined-up care pathways for all types of cancer treatment and care should be created to deliver consistency across the UK.