In previous columns I’ve written about how we are standing up to cancer in Doncaster.
We are getting better at detecting and treating, giving many more people a chance to beat what has historically been seen as a killer disease.
There are many reasons for the improvements, not least because of excellent work local GPs and community based staff are doing in referring patients quickly to hospital care after signs and symptoms of the disease are spotted.
Patients who their GP suspects could have cancer have to wait a maximum of two weeks before seeing a hospital specialist, and we closely monitor that this target is hit.
In the last year alone, more than 500 Doncaster GPs and staff from across the Doncaster health community have been on educational courses to update their knowledge on cancer.
GP practices have also taken part in ‘deep dive’ – reviewing what has happened to patients on their cancer care ‘journey’. The insights they have gleaned have been useful in helping the CCG organise better local services.
Doncaster GPs referred to hospital 840 more people who they suspected may have cancer – 11 per cent more than the previous 12 months. As a result, an additional 210 local people have had their first treatment for cancer, some nine per cent more than a year ago.
More people are seeing their GP with their concerns before being referred, which means fewer people being admitted to hospital in an emergency, and more cancers being detected as a result.
Crucially, we have seen the positive impact of having cancer care staff working at Doncaster Royal Infirmary seven days a week, instead of just weekdays as used to be the case. This has cut the number of cancer patients needing an emergency admission to hospital on a weekend, often as a result of the side-effects of the treatment they are having.
As a result of the changes we have reached a tipping point, with more Doncaster cancer patients now having potentially curative treatment than palliative or end of life care. This is a tremendous achievement.
Raising public awareness of symptoms, early detection and referral to treatment are the key factors for successfully battling cancer.
Having cancer treatment can be both draining for patients and their loved ones. We have looked at how we can make the journeys to and from treatment much easier and faster and, this week, we’re extending choice for those Doncaster patients who need help getting to and from Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital because of, for example, difficulty walking or dementia. They will soon be able to go there and back by private taxi, when previously they would have been one of a number of people collected by ambulance en route to and from hospital, spending a long time travelling. This option will be much more comfortable for them.
* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group