Some Sunderland cancer patients 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

Two thirds of cancer patients in Sunderland say they happy they have been kept fully informed about whether their treatment is working.

Patients aged 16 and over, who underwent cancer-related treatment with the trust between April and June 2017, were asked about their care as part of this year’s National Cancer Patient Experience Survey.

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The survey, which is carried out annually by Quality Health on behalf of NHS England, 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 ten for their overall care.

For City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, this figure was 8.82, an improvement on the previous year.

However, the results raised concerns about the level of information provided while patients were having treatment.

While some 70% of patients 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.

The results were worse for patients having radiotherapy than for those undergoing chemotherapy – just 57% of the former said they had enough information, compared to 73% of the latter.

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 worked in high-pressure environments, and that giving ongoing updates to patients during their treatment could 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 at the Trust, said: “The results of the latest survey is extremely positive.

“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 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.”