I recently met with Nicola Cook and Michelle O'Leary of the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity to talk about their work in Manchester.
The Manchester Macmillan Cancer Improvement Programme is underway, and its aim is to raise the standard of cancer care for people affected by cancer at every stage of their journey.
It’s bringing together Macmillan Cancer Support, the city’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups, hospitals, people affected by cancer, the Council, GPs and St Ann’s Hospice to develop new ways of working together that will prevent people from slipping through the cracks in the cancer care system.
It’s an ambitious and wide-ranging programme where the institutions, in partnership with patients and carers, will define where services aren’t joining up and come up with an agreement about what new services and ways of communicating need putting in place.
Manchester’s been chosen as the UK’s pilot city for this re-design because of its high incidence of poverty and cancer, and because of the challenges in delivering a full range of services across such a diverse population.
Survival rates are 25% lower than the national average and lung cancer in particular is 33% higher. Late diagnosis means that many people first present at A&E with serious symptoms - and as a result are given a poor prognosis. 63% of cancer patients in Manchester die in hospital when most people choose to die at home.
Manchester’s culture of innovation and the fact that it has some of the best cancer practitioners and facilities in the world also make it the obvious place to trial this programme. If it’s successful it will be rolled out across Greater Manchester and could form the basis of other system redesigns across the UK.
Manchester has some of the best cancer care in the UK, but this partnership programme wants the standard to be excellent every step of the way.
Take for example Susanne, a mother who was diagnosed with cancer two days before the birth of her second son. She had excellent oncologists and she had excellent midwives, but they failed to communicate and she was given conflicting advice on breast-feeding and felt that the care she needed didn’t respond to her situation.
As a result she had the discomfort, confusion and emotional strain of starting and then stopping breast-feeding – But she also felt panicky and isolated, and three years on as a cancer survivor she is still affected by that experience.
The MCIP wants to eradicate that lack of communication. It also wants to:
- Introduce post-treatment follow-up appointments with GPs.
- Improve end of life care for people with cancer across Manchester.
- Train generalist community nurses to help cancer patients at home.
The work of this programme will become even more relevant to people in Manchester as latest figures show that by 2020 half of us will get cancer in our lifetime. However the good news is that thanks to research, more people are surviving cancer generally.
There are 2 million survivors now and by 2030 that will have doubled to 4 million. And while that’s a happy story, surviving cancer has its challenges. Many survivors suffer with depression, anxiety, financial difficulties and physical side-effects.
The MCIP is another first for Manchester and is a timely and much-needed programme to ensure people in the city get excellent cancer care.