We call for change after the results of NHS England's National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, released today, show unacceptable regional variations in support and access to specialist nurses for men with prostate cancer.

6 Jul 2016

Today, NHS England released the local data from its fifth National Cancer Patient Experience Survey. The results will be used to ensure better care for people with cancer across England by promoting best practice and reducing regional variations in patients' experiences. The latest data will be included in the new Cancer Dashboard, putting patient experience alongside other key measures and allowing Cancer Alliances to easily identify priority areas for improvement.

The findings indicate that men affected by prostate cancer continue to face variation in their quality of patient experience across the country. For example, the percentage of prostate cancer patients saying the possible side effects of treatment were explained in a way that they could completely understand was 70.5%, but this varied between 47.6% and 96.2% across Trusts.

Although some Trusts may be doing very well, others are falling well short of requirements

Also of concern was that only 61.5% of men with prostate cancer said they were always offered practical advice and support in dealing with the side effects of their treatment – a figure that ranged from 33.3% and 85.7% across England. So although some Trusts may be doing very well, others are falling well short of requirements.

Another key area to highlight was the provision of Cancer Nurse Specialists. 89.1% of prostate cancer patients were given the name of a Clinical Nurse Specialist to support them through their treatment, but this varied between 54.2% and 100% across Trusts. And there were further wide variations (61.3%-100%) when men with prostate cancer were asked about whether it was easy for them to contact their Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Catherine Winsor, our Head of Improving Care, said: "It is good to see that the results of the revised National Cancer Patient Experience Survey show that cancer patients broadly have a positive cancer care experience. However, the findings clearly show that the experiences of men with prostate cancer continue to lag behind the average of all cancers in their ability to access the expertise of Cancer Nurse Specialists and receive support and advice for treatment-induced side effects.

We are disappointed that there is still variation in men’s access to the expertise of specialist nurses

"Side effects that include erectile dysfunction and incontinence can have a huge impact on a man’s physical and emotional well-being. It is therefore unacceptable that there was wide variation between Trusts in the percentage of men who had possible side effects explained to them, and in the percentage of men who were offered practical support in dealing with those side effects. It is critical that men know about potential side effects before they choose a treatment, and that the support they need to manage side effects is made available and accessible.

"Cancer Nurse Specialists are crucial in making sure that men get the support for side effects caused by treatment, so we are disappointed that there is still variation in men’s access to the expertise of specialist nurses. More needs to be done to ensure all men get the best possible level of support no matter where they live.

"That is why we are undertaking our own research to get to the bottom of why and where the variation lies in provision of prostate cancer nurse specialists and support for side effects, and what needs to happen to change it. We must work together to use these results as a starting point to help stamp out unacceptable variation in men’s experience of prostate cancer care."

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