UK Government

Commission for Rural Communities: Cancer patients in rural areas call for more local services

Press Release   •   Feb 10, 2010 10:39 GMT

The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has given cancer patients in rural areas the chance to comment on their experiences. Insights from patients, their families and from service providers suggest that living in the countryside can affect the quality of cancer care. There are particular challenges associated with running awareness campaigns and screening services in rural areas and difficult or costly journeys to hospital place extra strain on patients. The provision of care for discharged cancer patients remote from health services and with poor public transport is a further concern.

With 250,000 cancer cases every year in England, and survival rates lagging behind the rest of Europe, the CRC's research highlights that new ways of working are needed to improve health outcomes for cancer patients in rural areas. The CRC, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Department of Health are therefore bringing together key people in cancer care to develop solutions to the problems facing rural cancer patients.

Sarah McAdam, Chief Executive of the Commission for Rural Communities said "Rural cancer patients told us about the pain and discomfort of regular and lengthy journeys to remote treatment centres and about the considerably increased costs that they faced as a result. We are therefore supportive of any measures that enable cancer services to be delivered closer to people's homes.

"Today's event will provide a unique opportunity for experts to get to grips with the issues and identify practical solutions. By bringing together individuals from different specialisms we hope to break down barriers to improving the quality of care for cancer patients in rural England."

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said: "More people are surviving cancer and the NHS needs to focus more attention on meeting their long term needs. Blood clots, nerve damage, and depression are just some of the physical and emotional long-term problems that affect cancer survivors. However, people who have finished treatment for cancer are often overlooked by health and social care services. Those living in sparsely populated rural areas can suffer the greatest isolation and more needs to be done to help them."

Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for Cancer said: "Cancer treatment in Britain has improved vastly in recent years and this is shown in the falling mortality rates and increasing survival rates. However we know that survival rates still vary across the country. At present, some GPs do not have direct access to the full range of diagnostic tests and, even where there is access patients can wait up to 6 weeks for the tests to be carried out.

"That is why last year the Prime Minister pledged that patients in all parts of England will have access to tests which can confirm or exclude cancer within one week. We believe that improving early diagnosis through speedier access to diagnostic tests and raising awareness of cancer symptoms will save up to 10,000 lives a year."

ENDS

For further information contact Chris Wynne-Davies on 01242 534070

Notes for editors:

1 CRC's research report 'Insights from users and providers of cancer care in
rural England: Summary report', CRC 117, February 2010, can be found at:
www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk/files/CRC%20Web%20117.pdf

2 Further details of the 'Tackling cancer care in rural England' event taking place on Wednesday 10 February can be found at: www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk/events/tacklingcancercareinruralengland

3 The Commission for Rural Communities acts as the advocate for England's rural communities, as an expert adviser to government, and as a watchdog to ensure that government actions, policies and programmes recognise and respond effectively to rural needs, with a particular focus on disadvantage.

It has three key functions:

Rural advocate:
the voice for rural people, businesses and communities

Expert adviser:
giving evidence-based, objective advice to government and others

Independent watchdog:
monitoring, reporting on and seeking to mainstream rural into the delivery of policies nationally, regionally and locally.

www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk

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