London has 'worst cancer patient experience' in England

Charing Cross Hospital in west London, run by the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Image caption Charing Cross Hospital in west London, is one of the hospitals run by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Nine of London's NHS trusts are at the bottom of a league table measuring cancer patients' experiences in England.

In a table produced by Macmillan Cancer Care, based on Department of Health data, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was the worst performing trust.

The best was Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust in Yorkshire.

NHS London said it was a priority to tackle "the unacceptable variation in cancer care".

'Patients let down'

Eight of the top performing trusts are in the north of England.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said too many cancer patients were being "let down".

She said non-clinical needs must be given as much priority as medical needs.

The league table is based on the Department of Health's National Cancer Patient Experience Survey for 2011.

The table compares the performance of hospitals based on questions such as whether diagnosis and treatment options were explained clearly, whether patients felt supported in their care and whether they felt they were treated with respect.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust - which manages Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea and St Mary's hospitals - scored particularly badly in terms of seeing outpatients within 30 minutes of appointments and access to clinical nurse specialists.

However, more patients had their first appointment with a hospital doctor as soon as they thought was necessary - 76% compared with 70% in 2010.

A spokesman for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust pointed out that as a designated cancer centre for north-west London it cared for some of the "highest numbers of complex cancer patients in the capital with excellent patient outcomes".

He said a number of improvements were being made.

He added: "We have reviewed the roles of our clinical nurse specialists to guarantee they spend the optimum amount of time possible on patient-facing activities."

'Patient-facing activities'

Other London hospital NHS trusts in the bottom 10 for patient experience were Whipps Cross University, King's College, North West London, University College, Ealing, Newham University, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University and North Middlesex University.

As an example of patient treatment, Macmillan Cancer Support cited the experience of a 32-year-old woman being treated at a London hospital trust for recurrent Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

She said she had developed complications during her stem cell transplant.

She said: "From the first day they promised to get a specialist to see me. Three weeks later my symptoms were worse and no doctor had come to see me.

"I wasn't listened to, the doctors and nurses left me in such pain that I couldn't even walk.

"Upon discharge from the hospital they promised an urgent referral would be sent to the specialist. No letter was written."

Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, chief medical officer of London Cancer, an integrated group of NHS cancer specialists in north and north-east London, said: "The survey reflects the fact that too often the NHS in the capital delivers a disjointed and fragmented experience for patients with cancer."

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