Gerorge raises concern over ‘unacceptable’ variations in skin cancer services

Posted on: 13th December 2011

A new report launched in Westminster last week revealed the hidden burden of skin cancer across the country and called for urgent action to address the wide variations in the standards of care skin cancer patients receive. The MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, met with the coalition, Skin Cancer UK, which published the report to find out why more than five people every day are dying from malignant melanoma, the rarest and most serious form of skin cancer, in follow up to their report published earlier in the year, Skin Cancer in the UK: The Facts.

Latest report, Skin Cancer Revealed, the most comprehensive summary of the incidence, outcomes and service delivery for melanoma to date, shows how some services are under-prioritising melanoma. The findings show that:

• 20% of melanoma patients at some hospital trusts had to wait more than a month to attend an appointment . The Department of Health has set a national waiting time standards of two weeks from urgent GP referral for suspected cancer to first hospital assessment

• Despite national guidelines recommending that all melanoma patients should have access to their clinical nurse specialist, in some areas of the country as few as 33.1% of melanoma patients reported being given the name of a clinical nurse specialist in charge of their care

• There is a reported 38-fold variation in NHS expenditure on melanoma services in different areas of the country

The number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma has more than quadrupled over the last thirty years . Although 80% of melanomas are found at an early stage when the chance of cure is very high, advanced melanoma survival is poor with only 7-19% of patients surviving for more than five years. The recent emergence of the first new treatments for melanoma in 30 years presents new hope and opportunities for skin cancer patients. Skin Cancer UK is calling on the Government and the NHS to ensure that there is sufficient capacity, skills and resource available to ensure that patients feel the benefit of these long-awaited advances in care.

Attending the report launch, Andrew George said: “The NHS faces a significant challenge with melanoma, the incidence of which is expected to grow by 52% over the next 20 years . It is crucial that action is taken now to address these unwarranted variations in outcomes and services. It is shocking that a quarter of melanoma patients do not receive access to a clinical nurse specialist given the improvements they make to patient outcomes, experience of care and the money they can save the NHS. Capacity issues need to be addressed to ensure all patients have access to a clinical nurse specialist. I congratulate Skin Cancer UK on their efforts to bring this information into the public domain. More, however, must be done to prioritise this devastating disease.”

Richard Clifford lead member of Skin Cancer UK and Trustee of the Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity, said: “This report is a stark reminder of the state of melanoma services in England and is a critical resource to enable change. Not only do we need to redouble our efforts to educate the public on the dangers of UV exposure, as outlined in the collaboration’s initial report Skin Cancer in the UK: The Facts, but it also tells us that for those who are faced with a melanoma diagnosis we need to do much more to improve the quality of services they receive at every stage of the patient journey.”

“Whether a patient has early or advanced disease, it is critical that they are can access the best possible information, treatment and support as soon as possible. Skin Cancer UK hopes the insights and information in this report will be used to bring the rest up to the best NHS services and improve the outcomes and experiences of patients and their families no matter where they live.”





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