Posted: Thu 21st Feb 2019

Ambitious new programme to transform cancer services in North Wales launched today

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Feb 21st, 2019

An ambitious new programme to transform cancer services in North Wales was launched today (Thursday 21 February 2019).

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to set up Transforming Cancer Services Together, a programme to redesign the way services are delivered to provide better care and support to patients.

The recent Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey found that while most people diagnosed with cancer in North Wales have a positive experience of care, there are also areas for improvement.

Transforming Cancer Services Together has been set up to identify and deliver these improvements and is looking specifically at breast, lung, colorectal and urological cancers in its first phase.

At today’s launch at The OpTIC Centre in St Asaph, Adrian Thomas, the Health Board’s Executive Director of Therapies and Health Sciences, said: “This programme is about understanding what works best and changing what we do to provide the best possible care and support to patients from the moment they come into our service.

“It’s about ensuring we have the right systems in place to deliver an early diagnosis and prompt treatment, and also about improving the support to patients and their families through what is a really traumatic time.

“With the number of people living with cancer in Wales set to rise from 130,000 to 250,000 by 2030, there has never been a better time to transform the way cancer care and support is delivered.”

The redesign of services will be shaped by the ideas of health professionals and people affected by cancer, some of whom were at today’s event to talk about their experience.

Vivienne Martin, 56, of Abergele, Conwy, was treated for breast cancer in 2012, and again last year after it returned.

The Assistant Principal at Coleg Cambria says there could be better communication with patients.

“For me it was about the co-ordination of care,” she said.

“I felt I wasn’t receiving enough information and it meant I had telephone around to find out what was going on.

“Had I not asked questions or clarified, things may not have run so smoothly.”

Bruce Weston, 74, of Cilcain, Flintshire, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2017 but waited six weeks for a hospital appointment following a referral by his GP.

The retired teacher said: “It was a cause of great stress and anxiety, especially when you’re reading in the news about the importance of an early diagnosis.

“Eventually I set up a private consultation with a gastroenterologist who then arranged my colonoscopy, back on the NHS, for 13 days later.

“Once I was on the pathway, all of my subsequent tests and treatment ran like clockwork, but had I not been forthright and used my initiative, who knows how long I might have waited for a diagnosis.”

Stuart McFarlane, 48, of Saron, Denbighshire, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June 2014, spoke at the event about the importance of psychological support for patients.

“My diagnosis came as a complete shock,” said Stuart, an addictions therapist for a private rehab facility in North Wales.

“It was a pretty traumatic ordeal, especially for my wife and my teenage son.

“Logically I was functioning, but emotionally I was in tatters, so I accepted some counselling.

“I didn’t know what to think, say or do but the psychological support helped me to explore my feelings with someone without them crying in front of me.

“It’s so important that all patients are offered this support.”

Also among the guests at the launch event was Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, who told the audience: “Improving cancer services and outcomes is a real priority for this government.

“I am really pleased to see yet again an innovative partnership between the NHS and Macmillan.

“I want to both thank and recognise everyone involved in this exciting project and especially those patients whose first-hand experience is vital to understanding what patients go through when they access services.”

There are a large number of redesign programmes underway by Macmillan and its partners but this is the first in Wales to look at a patient’s entire journey, from referral by a GP, to treatment in hospital, to living with and beyond cancer.

Richard Pugh, Head of Services (Wales) for Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Macmillan Cancer Support is pleased to be working in partnership with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to fund this innovative £900,000 programme thanks to the public’s generosity.

“Transforming Cancer Services Together aims to improve cancer care for people living with the most common cancers in North Wales and the programme is part of the £6 million Macmillan’s invested in cancer services in the area since 2010.”

The programme will run for the next two to three years and is being led by Macmillan Programme Manager Yvonne Lush, who is also a former breast cancer nurse specialist.

Yvonne said: “People affected by cancer are at the heart of the Transforming Cancer Services Together programme, which is why we want them to help inform our work.

“We want to understand what is good, bad or needs improving about a patient’s journey.

“There are lots of ways to get involved, by attending meetings, to taking part in surveys, from being a member of a group discussion or talking to us one-to-one about your experience.

“By sharing your story, you can help us to make a big difference.”

For more information on the Transforming Cancer Services Together programme and to get involved, you can visit the health board’s website.

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