How is cancer care transforming?

Doctor and patient: cancer care transforming services

Oli Hudson, Content Director at Wilmington Healthcare, researches how diverse teams will work together in cancer care and transforming services in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.

Increasing the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages one and two, from around half now, to three quarters of cancer patients by 2028, is a key ambition of the NHS Long Term Plan.

To achieve it, the NHS is putting new systems in place that will require diverse stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop and implement new pathways for cancer diagnosis and care.

Cancer Alliances

The NHS Long Term Plan gives the 19 Cancer Alliances – groups of cancer clinicians responsible for driving the development of cancer pathways at a local level – a central role.

Cancer Alliances will be closely aligned with Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) and Integrated Care System (ICS) footprints, as well as NHS England and NHS Improvement regions.

They will advise ICS/STP board members on cancer services and help to ensure that local cancer strategies are delivered. They will also help to implement a new national faster diagnosis standard.

Rapid Diagnostic Centres

Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDCs), which were originally launched in pilot form in 2018, will underpin a radical overhaul of the way in which diagnostic services are delivered for patients with suspected cancer.

RDCs comprise multi-disciplinary teams which provide a single point of access to a diagnostic pathway for all patients with symptoms that could indicate cancer.

The centres aim to provide a personalised, accurate and timely diagnosis of patients’ symptoms. They combine all existing diagnostic provision and use networked expertise and information.

In 2019/20, all Cancer Alliances are expected to set up at least one RDC for patients with non-specific symptoms which could indicate cancer; as well as for a cohort of patients with site-specific symptoms who are currently served by an underperforming two-week wait or
62-day pathway.

Integrated care organisations

The NHS Long Term Plan states that Primary Care Networks (PCNs) will be required to help improve early diagnosis of cancer in their neighbourhoods by 2023/24.

We expect to see multi-disciplinary teams working within PCNs to deliver cancer services and this could mean more cancer specialists, such as cancer nurses, working in the community, as well as other specialists, such as gastroenterologists.

Screening and diagnostic services will be increasingly provided in the community. It is also likely that some chemotherapy services, previously owned by NHS England, will begin to become the responsibility of ICSs, particularly homecare services.

Overall, ICSs and PCNs will play a key role in supporting Cancer Alliances and RDCs to deliver local, targeted, population health-based strategies that will help to detect cancer earlier as this is key to improving patient outcomes.

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