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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Concern over ‘unacceptable’ variations in cancer services

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new report has revealed the hidden burden of skin cancer across the country and called for urgent action to tackle the wide variations in the standards of care skin cancer patients receive.  Meg Munn MP recently met members of Skin Cancer UK, which published the report, to discuss their findings about this disease.

The report, Skin Cancer Revealed, is a comprehensive summary of the incidence, outcomes and service delivery for melanoma, showing how some services are under-prioritising this form of cancer. The report detailed that around 20% of melanoma patients at some hospital trusts had to wait more than a month to attend an appointment despite the Department of Health waiting time standard of two weeks from urgent GP referral for suspected cancer to first hospital assessment.  

In addition, despite national guidelines recommending that all melanoma patients should have access to a clinical nurse specialist, in some areas of the country as few as 33.1% of them reported being given the name of a clinical nurse specialist. 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. 

Meg commented:

“The NHS is 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 tackle these unwarranted variations in services. 

I find it unacceptable 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. I congratulate Skin Cancer UK on their efforts to bring this information into the public domain.”

Richard Clifford lead member of Skin Cancer UK said:

“This report is a stark reminder of the state of melanoma services in England. Whether a patient has early or advanced disease, it is critical that they 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.”

Skin Cancer Revealed can be downloaded from www.skcin.org.uk


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