Cancer care overhaul plan for patients in Wales

  • 19 December 2011
  • From the section Wales

Cancer sufferers in Wales could be asked to rate their treatment under plans to overhaul care.

The Welsh government set out its vision in a new plan on Monday and hopes to deliver the changes by 2016.

The Conservatives said Wales needed a "cancer tsar" to drive up standards and the Lib Dems said ministers should take person responsibility for improvements.

In March, the cancer charity Macmillan called for a major overhaul of care in Wales.

It warned that the number of patients was set to double within 20 years.

The Welsh government said feedback from patients could be used to improve the quality of care.

Consultation over the five-year plan, Together Against Cancer: A Delivery Plan for NHS Wales, started on Monday and ends on 9 March.

The Welsh government wants to make a number of improvements and expects the NHS to work with local government and the public.

Lifestyle choices

The care plan includes a short document listing what the public can expect over the coming few years.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: "Cancer remains a top priority for the Welsh government.

"Although Wales has seen some of the most significant improvements in cancer survival in the UK during the last few years, the incidence of cancer is increasing.

"Lifestyle choices have a huge impact on cancer rates and it is vital we bring down levels of obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse across Wales."

Mrs Griffiths said local health boards needed to support people to reduce their risk of developing cancer, and individuals had to play their part in looking after their own health.

'Highest quality'

"I have made it clear health services need to be safe, sustainable and provide the highest quality of care," added the minister.

"That's why it makes sense to centralise, where clinically justified, certain specialist services for more complex care that require a minimum number of patients on fewer sites to deliver the highest standards of care.

"The right local hospital and community services will be put in place to enable patients to continue their recovery closer to home."

Image caption Sybil Fowler, diagnosed with breast cancer in May this year, said NHS staff seemed to work long hours

Sybil Fowler, 54, from Rhiwbina, Cardiff, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, had an operation in June.

She began chemotherapy in August - her most recent round was last week - and begins radiotherapy in January.

Ms Fowler has continued running her business as a marketing consultant. She said: "I was in bed with my laptop on many occasions."

She questioned whether the cancer service had the money it needed to work at full efficiency.

She said: "Most of the staff I saw worked over their hours. They seemed to have a huge amount of empathy for their patients."

The James Whale Fund for Kindey Cancer said some patients faced gruelling waits while local health boards made decisions about medicines, even though they are approved by the watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

A spokeswoman said: "Although this (cancer plan) may seem like a positive step for some there is no real commitment to supporting kidney cancer patients who have been prescribed treatment by their oncologists that are licensed by Nice but not available on the NHS due to their high cost."

Cancer drugs

Opposition parties have welcomed the publication of the cancer plan but have called on ministers to do more.

Image caption Macmillan has said Wales needs to 'rethink' the cancer support it provides

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar AM said: "There is no doubt that Labour's health service cuts are going to make the plan incredibly difficult for the NHS to deliver.

"Wales needs a cancer tsar who can help focus the minds of government to drive up standards in cancer care.

"Ministers also need to set up a cancer drugs fund to end the postcode lottery in access and allow Welsh patients to access the 24 life-extending cancer medicines, which are readily available in England, but denied to patients in Labour's NHS."

'Ambitious words'

Welsh Lib Dems leader Kirsty Williams AM said: "The health minister must take responsibility herself for a cancer action plan for the whole of Wales and not pass the responsibility on to local health boards.

"This is a disease that affects every family in Wales and it must have the minister and the Welsh government leading on it."

Plaid Cymru's health spokesperson Elin Jones AM said: "Ambitious words need to be matched by delivery and Plaid, along with other organisations and parties, will need to look at the exact details of this plan to ensure that it will deliver real change over the coming years."

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