Patient and carer voices are being listened to, following years of campaigning to improve the care pathways for those affected by pancreatic and primary liver cancer. NHS Scotland has launched a new initiative with an innovative “Virtual Cancer Care Team” to speed
up diagnosis and treatment for two of the most deadly forms of cancer.
The Scotland-wide two year pilot project, included in the recently published Cancer Action Plan for Scotland, will help patients with suspected pancreatic cancer and people at risk of the most common form of liver cancer – hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Pancreatic Cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate among the 22 most common forms of the disease and HCC has high mortality rates with increasing incidence across Scotland over the past decade.
Scottish campaigner Lynda Murray whose quest for change in memory of her father has been referred to as “Lynda’s asks” in the Scottish Parliament has worked tenaciously for years to bring politicians and clinicians together to improve the care and experiences for patients and families.
Lynda said “Pancreatic and liver cancer is different to other cancers – time is of the essence and everyone deserves a fair chance. This project shows the power behind patient and carer voices who have been pivotal throughout its development and will continue to be involved. People are listening and this is a real opportunity for Scotland to be the pinnacle for collaborative change”.
The new initiative is spearheaded by The Scottish HpB Network (SHPBN) and is funded by the Scottish Government, running until 2024.
Mr Ross Carter, is a recently retired Consultant Surgeon, previously of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Clinical Lead for the pancreatic cancer strand of the project who has been supporting pancreatic cancer patients for many years. Ms Anya Adair is a Consultant Surgeon within NHS Lothian and Clinical Lead for the pilot project which sits within NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), as part of the Scottish Cancer Network.
Ms Adair said: “The management of pancreatic and HCC can be complex and too often patients and their families are not provided with adequate information. This project aims to reduce delays in the care of patients and ensure support is provided”.
A pathway improvement project has been created with a new National Virtual Cancer Care Team at the heart of this innovative approach. This team will triage patients who have been referred by local health care teams for a suspicion of HCC or pancreatic cancer. The teams then work together to ensure earlier diagnostic and staging investigations take place, then make rapid referrals to regional multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs). This allows clinicians to swiftly begin appropriate treatment, reduces delays in care, and provides better support for patients and their families.
Scottish liver cancer survivor Bill said: “I am fortunate. I am a liver cancer survivor. But I was almost too late. This Pathway will provide patients and their carers with three critical elements. Firstly, speedier referral for those patients with suspicious symptoms for further investigation and diagnosis. Followed by appropriate intervention and treatment. Finally, patients and their carers will receive ongoing support, advice and information through the trauma of dealing with cancer. I am a cancer survivor. I, my wife and family will be forever thankful to Scotland’s National Health Service. In the future, this Pathway, will allow more patients to say the same.”
Pamela Healy, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust, said: “We welcome this exciting initiative that could significantly improve early diagnosis of liver cancer. Liver cancer is the fastest growing cause of cancer death in the UK with the majority of people with HCC, the most common form of primary liver cancer, being diagnosed too late for any effective
treatment. This new pathway has the potential to speed up diagnosis and referrals to ensure that more people can access potentially life-saving treatments.”