Cancer Strategy for England
When the UK Government announced in December 2014 that it had set up an independent taskforce to develop a new five year cancer strategy, we used the opportunity to make sure that it would meet the needs of men living with and beyond prostate cancer. We invited members of the taskforce and its secretariat to meet with prostate cancer specialists, and men with prostate cancer, including those who had used the new and innovative models of cancer support and care that we’d commissioned and supported with funding from the Movember Foundation.
As a result of this work England’s new cancer strategy includes the first ever patient experience and quality of life considerations that will be asking patients how they feel about the services and support they receive. It’s also taken a comprehensive approach to post-treatment support, with a chapter dedicated to living with and beyond cancer.
Furthermore, in the Westminster Government's November Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, there was a commitment to implement the recommendations from the independent taskforce. This has included £300 million per year, over five years, for new diagnostic equipment, additional staff, and rolling out post-cancer support in the form of recovery packs.
In May 2016, NHS England published its implementation plan, ‘Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: Taking the strategy forward’ which details how it will make the ambitions on the independent cancer strategy a reality and deliver ‘world-class’ cancer services. The plan is welcomed and offers us great opportunities to push through the key changes we want to see for men.
So what does the plan mean for men with prostate cancer? On the whole, it looks positive and an ambitious step forward.
We know from men that a key factor in their experience of prostate cancer is access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), or key worker. Evidence shows that access to a CNS or key worker leads to better patient experiences of care. The cancer strategy has pledged to ensure that more patients have such access, and we will be launching a campaign on this issue UK-wide in 2016 to ensure that there is enough CNS or key workers who specialise in urology to make this a reality for men with prostate cancer.
The introduction of regional Cancer Alliances from September 2016 offers the opportunity for a partnership between patients, treatment and services’ funders and providers, local authorities, and clinical leaders. These Cancer Alliances can use local data on cancer outcomes to identify where they need to make improvements to the cancer pathway. We can monitor this too, making sure that we can target our resources on the places where men are not getting the treatment and support services they need.
Now that NHS England has made guidance available to make sure local areas are providing services that support people living with and beyond cancer, we can use this as the backbone of our fight for services needed to support men with treatment-induced erectile dysfunction.
Patient experience will be a key factor in the implementation of the strategy, taking into account the results of the Cancer Patient Experience Survey, as well as offering further insight into different communities. By March 2017, NHS England will agree an approach to gathering insight and feedback from people with cancer from black, minority and ethnic communities – this will be used to inform our work as part of our ‘Men at Risk’ programme, which includes black men. Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men, with 1 in 4 getting prostate cancer in their lifetime, in comparison to 1 in 8 men in the UK overall.
Unfortunately, the focus on early diagnosis doesn’t currently take into consideration cancers that can be symptomless – which prostate cancer often is – but rather has a focus on those cancers which currently have a screening programme in place. But it does make additional resources available to increase diagnostic capacity – resources we will want to make sure are available when medical research produces ways to diagnose men better – such as our own risk assessment tool.
We look forward to working with NHS England, Public Health England and others to make sure that men with prostate cancer get access to the best possible diagnosis and treatment for them, no matter where they live.
Watch this space for updates.