We mustn’t lose sight of the importance of good communication at the end of life
It was heartening to see Helen Jamison’s article in The Independent yesterday. If you missed it, Helen wrote a moving article about her mother’s death, and the recent controversy over the Liverpool Care Pathway.
This was great to see, because here was someone who was prepared to use what must have been such a difficult personal experience to highlight issues which are so very important.
As she wrote,
Given the fact that death will affect each and every one of us, we are surprisingly bad at talking about it…
Several times I tried to get information about what would happen, from all the places you might expect, but none of it cut the mustard. It may be difficult to predict exactly what will happen in individual cases, but we weren’t even told about what might happen and how to prepare for it. Even when it was staring everyone in the face, there was little mention of the elephant in the room.
Like Helen, at Cancer Research UK we strongly support the need for good palliative care, as well as research into new treatments to save and extend life. And, like Helen, we fully understand the value of good clear communication even about painful issues such as death and dying.
Changes are afoot in the NHS – what will they mean for cancer patients?
How would you spend £80 billion of taxpayers’ money to ensure that our healthcare services remain among the best in the world?
That’s the challenge faced by the new NHS Commissioning Board, which is set to be formally established in just a few days, on the 1st October.
The Board is being created as a result of the much-debated Health and Social Care Act 2012, and is set to oversee how a host of new local and regional bodies such as Clinical Commissioning Groups will serve the healthcare needs of their communities.
Yesterday was the last day of an important public consultation about the proposed priorities and aims of the NHS Commissioning Board. To make sure the new NHS meets the needs of people with cancer, we submitted an in-depth response to this consultation to the Government.
The full document can be found here , and we’ve summarised exactly why this consultation matters for cancer patients in this article.
What do Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms mean for cancer patients?
The Government’s Health and Social Care Bill has been hitting the headlines recently. We’ve been asked a lot of questions about what we think about the Bill and what we’re doing to champion the concerns of cancer patients and researchers.
The Bill means big changes to the way the NHS works. The reforms aim to move decision making away from the Department of Health towards local bodies, especially family doctors and local councils. It’s all about giving more power to patients through the ethos of “no decision about me, without me“.
Here at Cancer Research UK we’ve been looking hard at what the changes to the NHS might mean to cancer patients being treated or taking part in clinical research in the NHS in England.
We want to make sure that change happens in the right way to help improve cancer outcomes in the UK.
This is particularly important, because cancer survival rates in the UK are lower than in some other similar countries, even though UK research is responsible for developing life-saving treatments that are used around the world. It’s not entirely clear what’s causing the differences, (although researchers suspect that late diagnosis plays a key role) so we’re looking into why our patient outcomes are lagging behind, and how we can improve things.
So which proposals in the Bill will have the biggest impact upon cancer patients and will they make things better?
Cannabis cannot cure cancer
Earlier this week the Daily Mail reported that a young US boy’s brain tumour had been “cured” after his father secretly gave him cannabis oil through his feeding tube.
The bold headline hides a more important truth: the boy was also receiving high-dose chemotherapy, and it is this – rather than the cannabis oil – that is likely to have treated his cancer.
Despite the headline, the story points out that the cannabis oil may well have helped to relieve some of the symptoms of the cancer, and treatment side-effects such as pain, nausea and appetite loss. But this isn’t the impression that you get from reading the headline, which arguably implies that cannabis cured the boy’s disease.
We felt it was important to emphasise this distinction. The role of cannabis and its derivatives in treating cancer is the subject of persistent internet myth and rumour, and we’re concerned that this headline may unduly fan these flames.
Variations in death rates after surgery raise many questions
Today a team of researchers, led by our stats expert Dr Eva Morris from Leeds University, have completed the first detailed analysis of bowel surgery outcomes across the whole of England.
The team looked at how the proportion of patients who die within 30 days of surgery – called ‘post-operative 30-day mortality’ – varies from hospital to hospital, and published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Gut.
This is without doubt a sensitive issue. Comparing deaths after surgery between hospitals is bound to ruffle a few feathers – but it’s important to stress that these findings don’t suggest why these variations exist. And there’s plenty of reason to believe that this isn’t, as some might assume, simply a reflection of the competencies of individual surgeons.
But if the figures don’t tell us the reason for the variation, what’s the point of measuring and publishing them? How does ‘naming and shaming’ the poorest performing hospitals improve things, when it also runs the risk of negative media coverage, or of upsetting patients who are due to have similar surgery?
Thankfully, as we’ll see, there are plenty of reasons why publishing data and making comparisons can, and do, improve the way health systems work, and ultimately improve things for patients.
We put your questions to Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of NICE
Last month, we asked you to send in questions for us to ask Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, the chairman of NICE.
We got a great response and lots of thought-provoking ideas, so here’s the interview we carried out, in full, completely unedited.
There’s also a full transcript further down the page too.
Thanks so much for all your questions, we hope you enjoy the results. If you have any further comments, questions or thoughts, please use the comments box at the bottom of the post,
Will government's new Cancer Strategy help beat cancer?
The coalition government today published a new cancer plan – Improving Outcomes – A Strategy for Cancer – in which they set out a plan to prevent more cancers, improve the country’s cancer services and raise survival rates to match the best in Europe.
The Strategy – which has been allocated £750 million over four years – demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving outcomes for cancer patients in England.
But with the current financial challenges and looming radical restructures in the NHS, the most important element will be how the Strategy is put into practice.
This crucial challenge needs to be met to ensure cancer services continue to improve for patients and their families.