Health Service Focus

09.12.16

Cancer patients at the helm of service redesign

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 16

As part of its health devolution programme, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) explains how patients were given a major voice in overhauling the region’s cancer services. NHE’s Luana Salles reports.

As part of its acute standardisation programme, GMCA has invited cancer patients in the region to help design a specialist surgical centre that will see services consolidated in Salford Royal Hospital. 

Over recent months, patients with stomach and gullet cancers have met with doctors and NHS managers to help shape the bespoke programme in accordance to their specific needs. For example, whilst Salford Royal will now conduct the vast majority of surgery, outpatient appointments will remain local as per the specific request of patients. 

Salford Royal already carries out the majority of these yearly operations, with the remaining being undertaken at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Wythenshawe Hospital. But under proposed changes, in which doctors and nurses from all three providers had a say, the Salford hospital – which is part of one of the country’s top-rated trusts – will amalgamate the expertise and experience around oesophago-gastric (OG) cancer into one dedicated team, which GMCA expects will enable more consistent high-quality care. 

GM Health and Social Care Partnership worked with individuals affected by these cancers through patient groups, such as the OG Patient Association and the Upper-gastrointestinal (UGI) Support Group, to address existing service inconsistencies. 

As a patient… 

For example, Sue Kernaghan, a patient representative who sat on the External Clinical Assurance Panel, was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago. After nine months of treatment and a job swap, she was asked to become a patient representative in Merseyside, which eventually led her to chairing a patient group in Chester and sitting on several clinical network groups – one of which was for UGI cancer. Whilst sitting on the latter, she was diagnosed with GIST, a rare UGI cancer that saw part of her stomach removed. 

“It is amazingly powerful to speak at these meetings and start a sentence with ‘as a patient’,” she said. “The professionals listen to you and respect our input. We have had many successes of tweaking the system for the good of patients. 

“When asked if I could sit on a group in GM, I was delighted to bring my patient experience to the table to give patients a voice, shape good practice and make a difference. As I was from outside the area, I didn’t have any preconceptions and could give my view. The group also included two eminent UGI surgeons who have national recognition for their expertise, an oncologist, a clinical nurse specialist and manager. 

“It was a truly multidisciplinary team and all key parts of someone’s day-to-day experience in hospital. I feel proud that there are a set of standards, developed by patients and professionals.” 

Kernaghan acknowledged that there have been challenges, but argued the team never lost sight of the need to make “meaningful change” for the region’s residents – starting from scratch, from diagnosis through to recovery. 

“I’ve helped ensure that referral pathways to other parts of the hospital were in place, such as referral to psychological support,” she added. “I feel it is important that we develop specialised centres like this one. In rarer cancers, the surgical expertise needs to be brought together under one roof. I would rather be operated on by a surgeon who is doing these operations time and time again and has the expertise needed for someone like me.” 

Lord Peter Smith, chair of the GM Health and Social Care Partnership, said the news, although still in its infancy, was a “fantastic example of transforming live-saving care and making a difference” so that every person in the region has access to consistent care and support. 

The organisation’s chief officer, Jon Rouse (more on page 22), also revealed that as well as reaching a decision on OG cancer, the GMCA is aiming to publish its cancer strategy in December as part of a series of quality-focused programmes, although he admitted this might slip to January.

For more information

W: www.gmhsc.org.uk

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