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Some cancer patients in South Tyneside say they are unsure if treatment is working

A consultant studying a mammogram. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images
A consultant studying a mammogram. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

Some cancer patients in South Tyneside say they do not feel they have been kept fully informed about whether their treatment is working.

Patients who underwent cancer-related treatment with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust between April and June 2017 were asked about their care as part of this year’s National Cancer Patient Experience Survey.

South Tyneside District Hospital

South Tyneside District Hospital

The survey monitors patients’ impressions of their diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare.

It showed experiences of cancer patients across England were “generally very positive”, with patients giving an average rating of 8.8 out of 10 for their overall care.

For South Tyneside , this figure was 9.09, an improvement on the previous year - but the results raised some concerns about the level of information provided while patients were having treatment.

Some 75% of patients at South Tyneside hospital answered ‘yes, completely’ when asked if they had been given enough information in terms they could understand about how their radiotherapy or chemotherapy was going.

The rest answered ‘yes, to some extent’ or ‘no’, which were both counted as negative responses.

On average, 35% of patients in England said they had not had enough information.

Dr Jeanette Dickson, vice-president of clinical oncology at The Royal College of Radiologists, said cancer specialists work in high-pressure environments, and that giving ongoing updates to patients during their treatment can be very complicated.

She continued: “Many cancer treatments are not straightforward, and response to therapy is not immediately able to be assessed as patients would wish.

“While patients are being treated with modern chemotherapy and radiotherapy they are in a fast-moving situation where progress might seem to stall and then change quickly, and the impact of treatments is not always clear every step of the way, especially as we try novel drugs that act in new ways.

“Doctors are aware of this, but perhaps need to acknowledge this uncertainty more often in view of this survey.”

Melanie Johnson, executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals for South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts, said: “The results of the latest National Cancer Patient Experience Survey for both of our Trusts are extremely positive, with South Tyneside and Sunderland each increasing their overall care rating, to 9.1 and 8.8 respectively out of 10.

“There are also many examples in various categories of high scores well above the national average, indicating that our local cancer patients are receiving some of the best care in the country.

“We are totally committed to further improving cancer care and patient experience and we have a new team dedicated to ensuring every cancer patient receives the care and support they need to live a happy and healthy life beyond diagnosis.

Working with our partners, it is intended that by 2020 every patient in South Tyneside and Sunderland who receives a cancer diagnosis will be offered a ‘recovery package’ including an holistic needs assessment and a care plan within 31 days of diagnosis, a summary at the end of each treatment phase which is copied to their GP, a Cancer Care Review in primary care within six months of diagnosis, and access to health and wellbeing events.”