Page last updated at 23:47 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 00:47 UK

Cancer patients 'failed by NHS'

Breast screening
The report rules the whole experience of the patient should be improved

The NHS in Scotland is failing many of those with cancer, a study of patients, carers and professionals suggests.

Stirling's Cancer Care Research Centre found the physical treatment was mostly good, but the overall experience of patients needed to be improved.

Staff interviewed 2,000 people affected by the disease over three years.

Many felt isolated and disrespected because services often failed to address symptom management and emotional and psychological issues.

There are about 27,000 newly diagnosed cancer cases in Scotland each year and survival rates lag behind comparable European countries.

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by including patient experiences at every level
Breast cancer patient

Professor of Cancer Care, Nora Kearney, said: "We are still failing people with cancer in Scotland.

"A new model for cancer care is required that addresses the whole experience of the patient and not just management of their disease.

"We have to treat the person as well as the disease. This means that as well as making sure people in Scotland can have the best medical management for their cancer we must also provide support for the social and psychological issues that people with cancer have identified as being important to them."

The centre has called for treatment and care policies to be more driven by patient experience in future.

Peter, from Glasgow, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, said: "Everyone diagnosed with cancer wants the best possible treatment, but they also want and deserve the best possible care. They are not necessarily the same thing.

"Any research which tries to truly understand and improve the experience of people affected by cancer is to be very much welcomed and encouraged."

'Significant improvements'

Christine, from Stirling, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, added: "Speaking as a person with cancer, the report emphasises what the 'elephant in the room' is: surviving is of primary importance, but the experience of this - good, bad or indifferent - is not being used to shape the delivery of service and the survivorship of the treatment further.

"There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by including patient experiences at every level; treatment, management, and how we, as patients and survivors, can contribute to research."

Prof Kearney concluded: "Although Scotland has made significant improvements in services for people with cancer over the past decade, it is evident from this research that, in relation to improving the experiences of people affected by cancer, more needs to be done.

"By not linking experiences and survival, sustained and optimal outcomes for people affected by cancer are unlikely to be achieved."

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