Last month I represented Kidney Cancer UK at a meeting in Westminster.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss a letter from charity groups and the all-party parliamentary cancer group (APPCG) to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across the country, highlighting the importance of one-year survival data and improving them. Forty cancer charities, including Kidney Cancer UK, joined Parliamentarians to raise awareness of the importance of improving local one-year survival rates. A copy of the letter to the CCGs can be read here. In England, the current one-year survival rate is 70.4%, whereas the latest comparable data for Sweden shows that their one-year survival rate is 81%. We are lagging behind the majority of Europe and this needs to be addressed.
CCGs were created following the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, and replaced Primary Care Trusts on April 1, 2013. CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area. There are now 207 CCGs in England.
Commissioning is about getting the best possible health outcomes for the local population; by assessing local needs, deciding priorities and strategies, and then buying services on behalf of the population from providers such as hospitals, clinics and community health bodies etc. It is an ongoing process and CCGs must constantly respond and adapt to changing local circumstances. CCGs are responsible for the health of their entire population and are measured by how much they improve outcomes. For more information on CCGs please view this NHS clinical commissioner’s webpage https://www.nhscc.org/ccgs/ .
Early diagnosis is vital in kidney cancer
Early diagnosis is of great importance in kidney cancer: far too many people are diagnosed with stage 3 and 4 kidney cancer (over 40%). This is an issue we are addressing and campaigning for: we are pushing for a kidney cancer screening programme to be introduced and to continue raising awareness of early signs and symptoms. This letter raises the important issue of early diagnosis with the people making policy decisions at a local level, so we were keen to be involved.
The All-Party Parlimentary Cancer Group (APPCG)
The meeting was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Cancer Group, who aim to keep the topic of cancer at the forefront of policy-making and discussion within parliament. More information on the role of all-party parliamentary groups can be found here. http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/apg/.
John Baron MP, Chairman of the APPGC said, “If we are going to improve cancer survival rates, we must improve early diagnosis. By writing to CCGs we hope to further raise awareness of this issue, and encourage them to drive forward improvements so that thousands more people are able to survive cancer.”
“We have also written to offer our support as we are conscious that CCGs do not have responsibility for broad national issues, such as the workforce. The APPGCs summer Parliamentary reception, which recognises the 20 CCGs which have most improved their one-year figures, presents a further opportunity to engage.”
Workforce issues within the NHS are still an issue.
One of the main points that I raised at the meeting was that doctors (particular GP’s) and nurses are under huge amounts of pressure at the moment, with increasing numbers of patients and not enough time in the day to do the jobs that they need to do. I was concerned that putting more pressure onto CCGs could demoralise GP’s further. Many charity representatives agreed and changes were made to the letter to offer support to the CCGs and highlight that workforce issues are beyond the control of the CCG. Hopefully noise will be made further upstream to address the issue of insufficient numbers of doctors and nurses. We can hope.
We hope that the letter will keep people aiming for improved earlier diagnosis of cancer at a local level
Kidney cancer UK felt that the letter to the CCGs was worth being involved with. We hope that the use of one-year survival data will give CCGs a way of measuring improvements in their policies and awareness campaigns. In addition, we will continue to push for earlier diagnosis of kidney cancer in many other ways and make sure that the kidney cancer patient voice is considered in general cancer policy-making decisions. We understand that politics is always controversial and we want to make sure we are representing our supporters to the best of our ability. We very much welcome your opinions on this issue.