16 Nov 2021 Policy
Charities call on NHS to treat blood cancer equally in decision-making
Blood cancer is the UK’s third biggest cause of cancer deaths, with over 15,000 deaths a year. It is the UK’s fifth most prevalent cancer, with 40,000 new diagnoses every year. Yet, from awareness, to diagnosis, to information, care and support, blood cancer patients are less likely to see their needs fully met than patients with the four most common cancers- breast, colorectal, lung and prostate.
Leukaemia UK are proud to be a part of the Blood Cancer Alliance, a group of 15 leading blood cancer charities. The Blood Cancer Alliance undertook an evidence review to inform a new report that explores the unmet needs of people with blood cancer across the UK. The key findings include:
- 3 out of every 10 blood cancer (30%) cases in England are diagnosed after presenting to the NHS as an emergency – when their disease is likely to have progressed and they have significant health complications. This is compared with just 3% in breast cancer, 7% in prostate cancer, and 21% in colorectal cancer.
- The number of patients who had to see their GP five or more times before being referred for specialist treatment is double that of patients with other cancers in England.
- 10% fewer blood cancer patients report that they fully understand their condition than those with solid tumour cancer.
- The median impact on a blood cancer patients’ finances is £181 per month, compared with £120 in breast cancer and just £52 in prostate cancer.
The Alliance is now calling for the NHS to treat blood cancer patients as equal to those with the four most common cancers in NHS policy making and decision making. As a basic measure, the Alliance is asking that NHS England add data on blood cancer patients to the Cancer Data Dashboard it uses as a key information source for cancer strategies. This would give NHS England overview of the five most common, and biggest causes of cancer deaths.
Caitlin Farrow, Chair of the BCA’s Policy Group, said: People with blood cancer are less likely than people with other cancers to report positive experiences across their care and treatment. The NHS leadership and the Government must therefore give greater focus to their specific needs and improve their experience.
In terms of diagnosis alone, the number of blood cancer patients who had to see their GP five or more times before being referred to specialist treatment is double that of patients with other cancers. This disparity is unacceptable, and is just one example of where blood cancer patients fare worse than patients with more common cancers.
Adding blood cancer information to its principal cancer data dashboard would mean NHS England could take an equal approach, understanding and considering the needs of blood cancer patients alongside those with the four most common cancers.
Henry Smith MP (Chair of the APPG on Blood Cancer): “Blood cancer is the UK’s third biggest cancer killer, yet it is often forgotten by leading policymakers when it comes to policy reports. It is unacceptable that from awareness, to diagnosis, to information, care and support the needs of blood cancer patients are too regularly neglected.
“Ensuring blood cancer is treated equally to the four most common cancers in policy making and decision making is imperative to improving outcomes for blood cancer patients. New cancer policies and tactics must be tested in more complex cancers like blood cancers, to make sure they work for blood cancer patients. The NHS and Government have a pressing responsibility to provide blood cancer patients with fair treatment and guarantee cancer policy takes account of their specific and complex needs.”
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