Sometimes … just sometimes official figures are revealed that just make my blood boil. The UK cancer survival rates comparison with the rest of Europe is just one of those blood boiling moments. The Lancet Oncology recently published some research that shows survival rates for people diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000-02 were:
- 77.8% in England;
- 77.3% in Scotland;
- 78.4% in Wales.
- women in Iceland during the same period had a 93.4% survival rate;
- women in Sweden during the same period had a 86.3%. survival rate;
The Lancet Oncology says:-
- “Overall, survival for all cancers combined in the UK as a whole is not only below the European average, it is also noticeably similar to some eastern European countries that spend less than one third of the UK’s per capita healthcare budget.”
Some pretty worrying figures there and a pretty damning indictment of NHS practices. You should read more about this story here in the Guardian Online.
Hard on the heels of this research come suggestions as to how to tackle the problem. One of the most useful articles appears in the Times Online. “Experts push NHS to use US-style cancer care” recounts the story of various sufferers who have traveled to America to avail of their advanced cancer techniques. The article also outlines an action plan designed by Professor Karol Sikora and Dr Maurice Slevin, two world-leading cancer experts who are based in Britain. The plan seems VERY sensible to me and I quote it here in full from the Sunday Times article:-
– NHS patients must be referred to a consultant within 24 hours of a GP suspecting cancer. At present, urgent cases are referred within 14 days, but many NHS cancer patients do not see a specialist for several weeks
– Scans and biopsies to determine how far a cancer has spread should be carried out within three days. At present, NHS patients can wait months.
– Surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy should begin within one week of diagnosis. At present, NHS patients can wait two months for treatment.
– Patients should be monitored weekly by a consultant during treatment to detect immediately if it is not working.
– Patients should be given wider access to powerful new medicines.
– Patients should receive the correct amount of radiotherapy at the correct time. A shortage of radiotherapy in Britain means that NHS patients face long delays and may not receive the correct amount of radiation.
– Patients should be treated in the evenings and at weekends to cut queues. In the NHS, expensive equipment is often switched off after 5pm.
Now…. I’m not an expert in any things medical but it appears to me that this plan has a WHOLE LOT OF MERIT. And, frankly, I’d rather like to see it implemented. The sooner it is the better for us all.
It is bad enough to lose a loved one through any of the forms of this horrific disease without also having the knowledge that the loss might have been avoided with the delivery of swift and effective care.
We need someone at government level to step up and deliver this particular plan.
I wonder who has the strength to do it?