When compared to the previous year’s survey the 2019 iteration showed significant improvement on eight questions. Some of the largest differences were seen in the proportion of respondents saying they were given information on financial help or possible benefits, and 38% of respondents saying they were given a care plan. This perhaps reflects the investment in carrying out holistic needs’ (HNA) assessments for patients across England. While this was an improvement from 35% in 2018, it falls well short of the ambition in the NHS Long Term Plan for Cancer that by 2021, that every person diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised care, including needs assessment, a care plan and health and wellbeing information and support.
Scores deteriorated significantly on five questions, these included the ease of contacting their CNS and when they did so, whether they got understandable answers to their questions. Whilst these differences appear small, most of these questions were around communication with hospital staff which is key for ensuring patients are informed and involved at every step of their cancer care pathway. This may also reflect the workload of CNS teams at the time of the survey.
The ‘Cancer Dashboard’ has been developed by Public Health England and NHS England and highlights a number of core questions. Respondents reported positive experiences for most of these questions. However, when asked if GPs and nurses at their general practice did everything they could to support them through their cancer treatment, 1 in 7 respondents said no, they could have done more, perhaps reflecting a mismatch between facilities in secondary care and those available to patients in the community.
The 2019 survey also showed an improvement in the proportion of people who felt they were told sensitively that they had cancer – 86% in 2019 up from 85% in 2018.
Chris Graham , the CEO of Picker who carry out the survey, said ‘his year’s results show that most people report good experiences overall’ but also pointed out that ‘the survey was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, which will create new challenges for the provision of cancer services’
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support also struck a similar note of caution saying ’statistics show an ongoing disparity of care for some cancer patients in England…worse still, the coronavirus pandemic this year could have worsened these inequalities’
Trust-level, Alliance and CCG level reports can be viewed here https://www.ncpes.co.uk/