Wigan health bosses: Early cancer diagnosis is vital but more cash is needed

Wigan health bosses’ efforts to prevent cancer and ensure people survive the deadly disease appear to be on track, new statistics show.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:59 am
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 10:03 am
Dr Tim Dalton says the borough is doing well in cancer treatment

Data released by Cancer Research UK shows there is a largely-positive picture for helping patients in the borough, with targets being met for referring people for treatment and getting them radiotherapy.

The one blackspot is in early diagnosis, with Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’s rate of 53.7 per cent well below the target of 75 per cent the Government wants to see across the country by 2028.

The CCG admitted it needs to make improvements, especially to how patients are screened for bowel cancer, but said overall it was doing well.

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Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue also concentrated on the positives, congratulating health staff in the borough for their work.

She also said that if three out of four cancer cases are to be diagnosed early in less than a decade’s time, there will need to be far more Government planning and funding for the NHS.

Ms Fovargue said: “Early diagnosis is a vital part of ensuring more people survive cancer.

“The Government has made a commitment to diagnose 75 per cent of cancer cases in England at stage one or stage two by 2028.

“However, to reach this target the NHS needs a long-term plan for the cancer workforce. Without this, there will not be enough specialist staff to meet the present pressures or cope with an ageing population.

“I know that our local NHS is working incredibly hard to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers. They have my support and Parliament has a big part to play in ensuring we work together to beat cancer.”

The stats show Wigan CCG has above-average rates of people aged 60 to 74 taking part in bowel cancer screening, with 61.2 per cent involved, with 18.4 per cent of cancer patients go through an emergency route. This is similar to the England average.

Wigan is also in line with the rest of the country on tackling preventable causes of cancer, wih 17.7 per cent of adults smoking and 23.6 per cent of youngsters aged four and five overweight. These are both slightly above England’s average.

The best news, though, is that 92.1 per cent of borough patients receive their first definitive treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, compared to 82.3 per cent for England as a whole.

Similarly, everyone who needs radiotherapy gets it within 31 days of first being treated for cancer, compared to England’s average of 97 per cent.

Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and CCG chair, said: “There are a number of targets we need to meet around cancer care. The data shows that we are doing well in relation to the number of patients starting treatment within the right amount of time once they have been diagnosed with cancer.

“Early detection of cancer is really important and we do need to make some improvements specifically to our bowel screening rates and the number of people we diagnose sooner. We are working with Greater Manchester to implement a more sensitive test for bowel cancer called faecal immunochemical test (FIT) testing.

“We’ve started a number of initiatives in the borough. Cancer Research UK has provided training sessions in GP practices to develop non-clinical cancer champions.

“Their role is to speak to patients who have missed a screening appointment or have mentioned symptoms that might need further investigation by a doctor.

“We are working on other projects in care homes and GP practices to help doctors and nurses spot signs of cancer sooner.

“Our aim is to increase awareness of the early signs of cancer and to give people more confidence to get them checked out.

“We know lifestyle factors can increase a person’s risk of getting cancer. It is estimated around four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented, largely through changes such as being smoke-free, eating a healthy diet, keeping to a healthy body weight, keeping active, cutting back on alcohol and staying safe in the sun.

“Lifestyle services are available throughout the borough to support people with any of the above. You can visit one of the Healthy Routes shops in Wigan or Leigh if you need help.”