Reflecting on a year of the Cancer Alliance

Thursday 15th March 2018

Reflecting on a year of the Cancer Alliance

By Lesley Smith, Cancer Alliance Chair

Hello and welcome to my first Cancer Alliance blog. It’s coming up to a year since the Cancer Alliance was formed so it is an opportune time to reflect on the work we have been doing.

Our Alliance was successfully allocated money from the NHS England National Cancer Transformation Fund to fund projects in our Early Diagnosis and Living With and Beyond Cancer workstreams.

This financial year we have used some of the transformation money to fund projects within our Early Diagnosis workstream, particularly launching Be Cancer Safe – a social movement in cancer awareness. Be Cancer Safe is a community approach to improving cancer survival. Through a range of community based activities and conversations we aim to make sure everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, know what screening is available to them and ultimately increase the number of people diagnosed at an earlier stage.

We have been working closely with primary care staff to develop initiatives and pilot new tests to speed up diagnosis. Some of this work with GPs has been around evolving pathways for vague symptoms - which are non-specific but potentially serious symptoms. Alliance staff have already attended primary care events in Barnsley and Doncaster to speak with GPs about vague symptoms and will be attending similar sessions in the other areas in the Alliance footprint later in the year.

We are also looking at developing a pathway to manage lower gastrointestinal symptoms working with primary care staff to develop a pathway for patients that present with low risk bowel symptoms. This includes the implementation of the faecal immunochemical test (FIT). This test recognises human blood in the patients stool sample – if blood is present then the patient will be referred further tests. The use of FIT will reduce need for invasive test for those patients who don’t need it.

The transformation funding is also supporting work, in conjunction with the elective and diagnostic workstream, to review capacity and demand of three diagnostic tests – CT, MRI and Endoscopy. Barnsley Hospital have been commissioned to lead on the delivery of this project.

We have also started work on establishing clinical pathways to improve the management of patients more effectively from referral to living with and beyond cancer – building on the existing work of the Living With and Beyond Cancer programme.

The Macmillan Living With and Beyond Cancer programme forms part of our Cancer Alliance. The programme is currently focussed on delivering an electronic version of the Holistic Needs Assessment (HCA), that can be shared across the regional hospitals, and we’ve already started to see progress in the hospitals where this is starting to be implemented. HNA is a tool to ensure that people’s physical, practical, emotional, spiritual and social needs are met in a timely and appropriate way, and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

All the projects I have mentioned are ongoing and developing - as an Alliance we will keep you updated on their progress throughout the coming year.

I want to take this opportunity to thank staff from across the five foundation trusts and seven CCGs in our Alliance area who have worked extremely hard to improve the performance on the 62 day target. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 62 day target, it is the standard set by NHS England which states that 62 days is the longest amount of time patients should wait between referral from their GP to their first cancer treatment.

As an Alliance we have worked hard to ensure we meet this target for the benefit of our patients but we know there is further work to be done in this area. We monitor our progress on this target as an Alliance as well as individual organisations and we will continue to make improvements in this area.

I am always interested to hear stories, from both patients and staff, about their experiences in cancer services across the Cancer Alliance areas – these real life stories are so powerful in illustrating the work of the Alliance.

Earlier this month the Alliance heard from a breast cancer patient who was offered an appointment at Chesterfield Hospital which was earlier than an appointment at her local hospital in Sheffield would be. The patient opted for the earlier appointment and had a great experience in Chesterfield. The patient was grateful for the opportunity of an earlier appointment as it meant the she and her family could have their worries addressed sooner. Stories like this highlight how we are working across boundaries as an integrated system for the benefit of our patients.

Please get in touch to share your experiences either via email, telephone 0114 3051693 or by writing to us at SYBND Cancer Alliance, Sheffield CCG, 722 Prince of Wales Road, Sheffield S9 4EU.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s been a challenging but exciting first year for the Alliance and we go in to our second year with a number of new opportunities to come as we move towards working as an integrated care system.

Lesley

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