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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Sturgeon issues cancer care call
Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon says the views of patients must be heard
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said more needs to be done to improve the experiences of cancer patients in Scotland.

She was speaking at a conference on the future of cancer care at the University of Stirling.

The university's Cancer Care Research Centre conducted a three-year study into patient experience of the disease.

Researchers found inconsistencies Scotland-wide with regard to the care and services offered to some patients.

The study also uncovered instances where patients were given their cancer diagnosis over the telephone.

Ms Sturgeon said the findings of the study emphasised the importance of patient experience in determining future health policy.

Our research centre aims to ensure that the experiences of people affected by cancer can and do drive improvements in cancer services across NHS Scotland
Professor Nora Kearney

She said: "This study really brings it home to us that people with cancer want to be much more involved in decisions about their own care and that means as a government, as a health secretary, when we're devising policy, we have to do it with that in mind.

"And we have to make sure that clinicians and the health service in general are much more responsive to what they want.

"That's a big challenge, it involves changing cultural attitudes but it's extremely important as more people live longer with cancer."

Since 2003, the centre has conducted nine linked studies into how people think about and experience cancer.

Better understanding

Among its key findings, researchers discovered that people still view cancer as the most frightening illness and associate it with death.

They also found that people in Scotland had a limited awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Director of the centre, Professor Nora Kearney, said she hoped the conference would provide better understanding.

She said: "Through bringing together patients, carers, health professionals and policy makers, we provide an opportunity for everyone to better understand the importance of listening to and learning from people affected by cancer.

"Our research centre aims to ensure that the experiences of people affected by cancer can and do drive improvements in cancer services across NHS Scotland."

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