A cancer diagnosis is devastating but here in North East Lincolnshire there is a whole army of people taking on the disease.
From GPs and hospital consultants to nurses and hundreds of members of the public, there is a coordinated effort to combat cancer that has attracted national attention.
Health bosses at NHS England were so impressed by the rates of diagnosis and screening for some cancers and the aftercare that is available to help people get on with their lives after treatment, they visited the area to find out why we have been so successful.
Sean Duffy is the national clinical director for cancer with NHS England. He attended a meeting where professionals from four local health organisations showcased what was being done here to prevent, identify and treat the disease and help people live well and get their lives back on track after cancer treatment.
“Not only is it very impressive how the different professional agencies are working so well together to a common purpose but there is a community element in North East Lincolnshire that is trailblazing,” said Mr Duffy. “The level of voluntary and community support here is just incredible.”
Since 2007 the award-winning Early Presentation of Cancer Symptoms Collaborative which is run by Grimsby-based Care Plus Group has trained 40 volunteers who attend events and go out into the local community encouraging people to take up screening opportunities and get worrying symptoms checked out by their GP. Another 520 cancer champions have attended training to help them speak to family and friends about signs and symptoms of the disease.
Julie Grimmer, Health and Wellbeing Collaborative Programme Manager at Care Plus Group, said: “I am convinced the enthusiasm of our local volunteers is the key to reducing the taboo of cancer and encouraging people to see their GP early. They deserve this recognition for all their hard work.”
Local healthcare organisations make up the Northern Lincolnshire Cancer Locality Group which ensures tackling the disease is a priority in this part of the world. Together with neighbouring North Lincolnshire, access to a consultant for suspected cancer (known as 2 Week Wait Performance) is the best in the UK.
Louise Hobson, Planned Care Manager at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust explained: “As a provider we ensure all patients who are referred into the Trust with a suspected cancer diagnosis are seen within the national standards. We also ensure a smooth timely pathway is followed in order for patients to receive their diagnosis quickly and if proven to be cancer, then to receive their treatment.
“We have an excellent administration team working in the background that monitors all patients on a cancer pathway on a daily basis and expedites the next management plan where needs be.”
All cancer waiting time targets, including seeing suspected cancer patients within two weeks of urgent GP referral, are being met or exceeded at the Trust. For example, Monitor set a minimum requirement for treating 96% of patients within 31 days of diagnosis. The Trust performance for June was 99.17%. 98.76% of patients with an urgent referral from their GP for suspected cancer were seen within two weeks (against a target of 93%). 100% of patients received anti-cancer drugs within 31 days (against a target of 98%) and 100% of patients who needed surgery as a subsequent treatment received this within 31 days (against a target of 94%).
96.80% of patients with an urgent referral from their GP with breast symptoms were seen within two weeks (against a target of 93%).
Once people have had treatment, cancer survivorship programmes are supporting patients to manage side effects, cope with stress, spot any possible recurrence of their symptoms very early and where possible return to work. These take place in the community and a new breast cancer survivorship programme has been launched at the hospital.
Pauline Bamgbala, service lead for cancer with North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said a Northern Lincolnshire Cancer Locality Group meets bi monthly. This multi-agency group has developed an action plan to ensure requirements of the national cancer strategy and new NICE guidance is being addressed. “Efforts are multiplied when people and organisations work together like this and here in North East Lincolnshire we are starting to see what an impact this collaboration can make even on a disease as devastating as cancer,” said Mrs Bamgbala.
Geoff Barnes, Deputy Director of Public Health for North East Lincolnshire Council who also sits on the cancer locality group, agreed saying; “We have a great team working to combat cancer in North East Lincolnshire, however we still see high numbers of preventable cancers every year associated with smoking, excess alcohol and poor diets so there is much work to be done”.
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