Healthwatch – Cancer Project Group

It’s been quite a while since this project group met up.  There’s been such a lot of confusion as to what’s going on and whether Healthwatch (or LINk) will even exist in the new structure.

The Central West London group has created a number of smaller specialist groups and the cancer project group has been terrifically active and positive.  There are a number of projects that we can measurably show have improved the cancer services in the area, particularly the regard to the ethnic minority groups now attending screening appointments and seeing Drs when symptoms first appear.

Today’s meeting was called to explain, as it stands at the moment, about the transition from LINk to Healthwatch.  What it means?  How it will impact current projects?

Healthwatch is the new consumer champion for health and social care in England.  It provides a voice for the community to improve care, to complain, to acknowledge good care etc in your local area.  It should also be used as a place to signpost to other health and wellbeing charities and organisations in the area and for those organisations to work with Healthwatch.

We are all aware of national projects looking at hospital care or home care.  Perhaps you could get involved and make a difference locally by using your experience to make your voice heard DIRECT to the local area.  There are a lot of opportunities to get involved.  Attend meetings.  Be part of a project group inspecting hospitals, surgeries, clinics etc.  Feed back on your experiences.  Membership is free and you can choose how much time or experience you might want to dedicate.

There was also a presentation by User Involvement Lead for the new Cancer Commissioning Team to tell us all about the new Cancer Services in London.  There has been a lot of confusion about what is to happen.  How London is to be divided into regions to work within the new structure.  How we can improve cancer services for the many people diagnosed each year in London.

A few facts:

Around 13,600 people die from cancer in London each year.
More than 50% of whom are under 75 years of age. The number of new cancer cases in London is predicted to increase from around 27,000 in 2002 to 28.500 in 2022

Londoner has historically reported a poorer experience of cancer care than compared with other regions of England.  This needs to improve.  Not only for those being diagnosed but those living with and beyond a diagnosis.  We have so many cancer specialist hospitals in London but we need to ensure that they are working together for the benefit of all patients and carers.  We need to ensure that the service provided is of the best possible care but that it is equitable no matter which hospital you attend.  Collaborative working and less ‘competition’ between hospitals and trusts.  I personally feel that we, patient and carer advocates, need to continue to remind the people in charge that the service they offer should be the best and should be patient-centric!

London cancer services have been divided into two areas:

London Cancer Alliance – West and South London
London Cancer – North and East London

Although that sounds a clean division.  In fact it’s more of a crescent and geographically cover a vast area.  There have been huge concerns about the spread of hospitals and trusts and how they are going to communicate.  Just to host a short meeting will take many hours for some participants to attend.

It’s also very important that we, as patient and carer advocates, participate in the new structure.  There are opportunities to sit on committees and boards.  There are also user groups, pathway groups and many other opportunities.  Not all of them are regular commitments.  Not all of them require you to attend meetings.  Your experience as a patient or carer is critical to ensuring improvements can be made.  Often, and at a simple level, the wording in leaflets and information can be improved by patients reviewing it!

Below are a few links:

North West London Commissioning Support Unit – Patient focus.  We’re passionate about helping you improve services for patients and will work with you to deliver the change and benefits you’re striving for.
West London Clinical Commissioning Group
London Cancer Alliance – Improving Cancer Outcomes through partnership
London Cancer – London Cancer is a partnership of NHS, academic, charity and cancer specialists dedicated to providing  expert, compassionate care for every patient, every time.

We also discussed briefly the results of the 2013 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey.  Disappointingly London doesn’t fair too well.  There are even a few points where it appears some of our hospitals are doing OK… until you spot that in relation to other hospitals we all did badly!  Do have a look at it.  Perhaps your input and shared experience could help improve the services.

Macmillan have also commented on the survey here.



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