In Bedfordshire, there are over 3000 new cancer diagnosis each year, while nationally there are currently an estimated 2.5** million people living with cancer withthis figure expected to rise to four million by 2030**. It is figures like these that show that diagnosing, treating and then supporting those living with a cancer are a key area of focus for BLMK for now and into the future.
Last year, BLMK’s partner the Cancer Alliance secured £1.2 million of funding to transform how, where and when certain cancers are diagnosed and changing the way people living with cancer are supported.
Catching it early
Early diagnosis is a key to improving survival rates from many of the more common cancers. In BLMK, the funding is allowing partner organisations to work together to introduce FiT testing in primary care as well as developing innovative one-stop shop diagnostics for urological cancers.
FiT stands for Faecal Immunochemical Test. It is a type of faecal occult blood test which uses antibodies that specifically recognise human haemoglobin (Hb) and is used as a diagnostic test for suspected lower gastro intestinal (GI) cancers, with a view to identifying more patients at risk of colorectal cancer with otherwise low-risk symptoms.
It is hoped that by enabling GPs access to FiT it will help patients visiting their GP with symptoms to find out much quicker if cancer can be ruled out before they go onto a cancer pathway. The initiative will be rolled out across BLMK in 2018.
Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 13% of all new cancer cases (2015)***. In BLMK, the lung cancer pathways will also benefit from investment. This will involve faster access to diagnostic tests and a future plan to include actively identifying patients who are at risk of lung cancer earlier to improve our survival rates.
Innovation along Cancer pathways within BLMK is an ongoing process, and there have been a number of initiatives that have been developed. In Luton, a one-stop shop for urological cancers was established in 2015 to provide, quite literally, a single appointment to run through a series of tests that are required to deliver a diagnosis on the day instead of waiting weeks for test results and further investigation. As a patient this takes away the need for a worrying wait and the frustration of separate appointments for different investigations – and ultimately delivering a better patient experience.
Living with and beyond cancer
Living with cancer is emotionally and physically challenging and day to day concerns can often lead patients to A&E. The side effect of chemotherapy treatment often leads to patients coming to A&E with concerns about infection, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue. While in some cases patients do require the services of an acute hospital, many more would benefit from services in the community, reducing hospital admissions and saving patients time in hospital.
In BLMK, specialist nurses in the community are being provided to help patients get treatment, if required, in the right setting and signposting them to other sources of support and information. The first area to benefit from specialist nurse support will be Luton and if the concept works will be phased in across BLMK in 2019. In addition, BLMK is also working with Macmillan Cancer support to offer a wide range of support for those living with cancer as well as guidance on everything from financial advice to emotional support.
Patient Advisory Board for Cancer
We are looking to establish a new patient advisory board. The new board, which will also include leading clinicians, will help us develop cancer pathways and shape plans for the future of cancer care in BLMK. If you would like more information about the board or have someone interested in getting involved contact Carol Ord, Carol.Ord@bedfordhospital.nhs.uk. Please include Patient Advisory Board in the title of emails.
* Macmillan website
**Statistics Factsheet. Macmillan Cancer Support. December 2017
***Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2017. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsen