29 Aug 2023

Leukaemia UK’s response to the Major Conditions Strategy

In January of this year, the Government announced it would publish a Major Conditions Strategy, with the aim of tackling ‘the major conditions which contribute to the burden of disease’.[1] However, the announcement of this new five-year strategy, designed to cover six major conditions of which cancer is one, signalled the end of the widely anticipated 10-Year Cancer Plan.

To inform the development of the Major Conditions Strategy the Government launched a call for evidence in May 2023, the findings to be used to supplement the learnings from the previous 10-year Cancer Plan consultation. The Government hoped the consultation would gather a broad set of views and ideas on how to prevent, diagnose, treat, and manage the major conditions which contribute to ill health in England. [2]

The consultation, which was open for six weeks, closed on the 27th of June. The Department for Health and Social Care are aiming to have the Major Conditions Strategy published by the end of the year and believe, once published, it will deliver improvements to the health of the nation whilst also easing pressures on the health system.

Progress is being made…

This week the Department for Health and Social care published an initial report regarding the Major Conditions Strategy, which provided a strategic framework and detailed the case for change.[3] The strategic framework, described as a framework for change, sets out the approach the department will take to deliver the Major Conditions Strategy. In doing so they hope to improve outcomes and better meet the needs of the population, which is becoming older and more frequently living with multiple conditions.

The framework focuses on five key elements that are seen to be priorities to improve the healthy life expectancy of the nation: Primary prevention, Secondary prevention, Early diagnosis, Prompt and urgent care, and Long-term care and treatment.

Leukaemia UK welcomes the increased focus on the need for early diagnosis, prompt and urgent care, and long-term care and treatment in both the NHS and social care setting. It is widely recognised that early diagnosis saves lives. By being able to identify major conditions like leukaemia early, the outcomes for treatment are far better and the negative impact on people’s lives is much reduced. The department will use the Major Conditions Strategy to identify opportunities for earlier diagnosis and aims to identify opportunities to secure more equitable access to diagnosis. Leukaemia UK is hopeful that the barriers faced by those with suspected leukaemia symptoms accessing blood tests and subsequently a diagnosis, will be addressed as part of the strategy.

Leukaemia UK’s consultation response

As well as submitting a response as part of the Blood Cancer Alliance, in coalition with several blood cancer charities, Leukaemia UK submitted its own response to the Major Conditions Strategy consultation. By doing so, we wanted to ensure that the needs of leukaemia patients were clearly represented. To achieve our vision of stopping leukaemia devastating lives, a long-term plan for cancer which considers the needs of leukaemia patients is essential. Leukaemia UK’s response highlighted the following five key areas which, if addressed, will help to save and improve more lives:

  • Risk stratification: We are calling for the risk of developing leukaemia to be considered, in conjunction with regular screening for all those at greater risk of developing acute leukaemia.
  • Prompter diagnosis: Prompter diagnoses are urgently needed to improve chances of survival, as a late diagnosis can reduce treatment options and is linked to poorer outcomes. To see improvements, we believe alternative routes to diagnosis, such as self-referral, should be introduced.
  • Better understanding: The ability of a patient to understand their condition and the treatments available to them directly affects their quality of care. Only 70% of leukaemia patients state their diagnosis was explained to them in a way they could completely understand, compared to 77% of all cancer patients nationally.
  • Improved personal support: Leukaemia treatments can significantly impact patients’ psychological wellbeing. Leukaemia UK believes that the provision of better personal support is imperative to improve the overall care experience of leukaemia patients and their quality of life.
  • Access to new treatments: A lack of surgical options means leukaemia patients are more reliant on novel treatments, than those with solid tumours. Furthermore, access to newer treatments is varied and still largely not available for first-line treatment.

The final Major Conditions Strategy is expected to be published by the end of the year, in which we hope to see our recommendations and the needs of leukaemia patients recognised.

[1] Department of Health & Social Care – Major conditions strategy: call for evidence

[2] Department of Health & Social Care – Major conditions strategy: call for evidence

[3] Department of Health & Social Care – Case for change and our strategic framework

Lewis Miller, Leukaemia UK’s Policy Officer

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