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Ambitious new programme to transform cancer services in North Wales

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Friday, Feb 22nd, 2019.

An ambitious new programme to transform cancer services in North Wales has been launched.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to set up Transforming Cancer Services Together, which aims 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.

The number of people living with cancer in Wales is set to rise from 130,000 to 250,000 by 2030 and it is hoped the new approach will help change the way cancer care and support is delivered across the region.

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 yesterday’s launch at The OpTIC Centre in St Asaph, Adrian Thomas, the Health Board’s Executive Director of Therapies and Health Sciences, said the programme is about “understanding what works best” and providing the best possible care and support to patients and their families.

The redesign of services will be shaped by the ideas of health professionals and people affected by cancer, some of whom were at yesterday’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.”

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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