Cancer survivors deserve ‘care plan’

28 March 2013 Last updated at 21:03 ET

Anxious cancer survivorA survey found that a quarter of cancer survivors feel isolated after treatment

All cancer patients should receive a ‘recovery package’ at the end of their treatment offering ongoing support, the government has announced.

Currently as many as three in four patients do not receive any information on coping with the long-term effects of their illness, figures suggest.

The care plans will identify patients’ financial, mental and physical needs.

Ministers called on the NHS to take “urgent action” to help cancer survivors in England.

Macmillan Cancer Support, who helped develop the proposals with the Department of Health, said at the moment many patients felt isolated once treatment had ended.

Very few cancer patients are given any written information on recurrence or side-effects of treatment, the charity said.

Nor are they told how to contact someone outside of routine follow-up if they have any problems.

The recovery package is essentially a checklist for doctors and nurses to assess what emotional, physical and practical needs a patient might have after their treatment has ended.

This may include referrals to mental health or social services as well as advice on financial support.

Care plans will also forward patients to physical activity services to help them regain their strength and fitness.

Isolated

A national survey of cancer survivors has shown that around a quarter feel isolated after treatment and 30% say they have numerous issues that are not being addressed, which include fears about their cancer spreading.

Macmillan estimate that currently around 200,000 people do not get a package of support after their treatment ends.

Public health minister Anna Soubry said there are currently around 1.8m people who have or have been treated for cancer, a figure set to rise to 3.4m by 2030.

“This joint document calls on NHS England and local NHS teams to take urgent action and consider our recommendations when they provide cancer services based on their local community’s needs.

“Whether it’s specialist help to get back to work or being recommended to do a physical activity group, local NHS teams need to consider providing a new range of care services for cancer survivors to tackle their needs and improve their quality of life.”

CiarĂ¡n Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support added that many cancer patients are crying out for this type of personalised support.

“If the NHS does one thing for cancer survivors it should be to commission this recovery package for its local population.

“We also need to keep on top of how cancer patients’ quality of life is affected long-term.”


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