Guest Blog by Ellie Rose, Public Affairs Manager, Macmillan Cancer Support
There are now 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK. By 2020, this is estimated to rise to 3 million. And by the end of next year alone, it is estimated that around 1000 will be diagnosed with cancer every day. How will the health and social care system cope with these growing numbers when people’s needs are not being met today?
This is a colossal challenge, and one which cannot be met without urgent action from political leaders. With less than two months to go until the General Election, it is time for all political parties to make a choice about the future of cancer care in this country. So Macmillan is calling on all Westminster parties to commit to making changes in three key policy areas in order to improve the lives of everyone affected by cancer.
The first is delivering cancer outcomes that match the best in Europe. In the UK survival rates for almost all common cancers lag behind European averages. Addressing this will require increasing the number of people who are diagnosed early; ensuring that everyone is able to access the right treatment for them, irrespective of age or location; and supporting people to live well with and beyond cancer. Only with action on all three fronts will we make the significant improvements needed to achieve the best cancer outcomes in Europe
Secondly, urgent change is needed on improving the culture of compassion and transparency in the NHS. Whilst the majority of people with cancer receive good care, we know that there are still too many examples of people not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. The latest Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) showed that patients affected by rarer cancers, younger patients, older patients, ethnic minorities and patients treated in London hospitals report a worse experience. To address this Macmillan believes that more accountability is needed. NHS Trusts should be required both to put actions plans in place based on their annual CPES result and to report on progress. This will reduce inequalities and ensure that everyone with cancer is treated with dignity and respect.
The last (but by no means least) area where change is needed is at the end of life. We know that while around 79% of people want to die at home, only around a third of people are able to. Providing free social care to support people at the end of life would ensure that people have the necessary support to die in the place of their choosing. It would also help to prevent family members and loved ones who are caring for people at the end of life reaching an emotional or physical crisis point in their own lives. Research has shown that this would not only improve the quality of care received, but would also save around £345m for the NHS.
The cancer challenge facing the UK is growing every day. It is vital that all political parties ensure that cancer is prioritised in their manifestos. They must commit to delivering the best outcomes in Europe, dignity and respect for all patients, and free social care at the end of life. Together this package will help us avoid the looming cancer care crisis.
To find out more about how you can support our campaign please visit macmillan.org.uk/GeneralElection2015