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25 September, 2014

I’m hugely excited that the fourth iteration of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey is being published today. This is the culmination of an enormous amount of hard work from the team at NHS England, a wide range of voluntary organisations, and Quality Health’s own staff.

It’s available on our website here: Cancer Patient Experience Reports

It’s the largest survey of its type undertaken anywhere in the world – asking nearly 120,000 patients across every NHS Trust in the country about their experiences of treatment and care for cancer. And the 64% response rates show how willing they are to share their views.

The scores have got better over the years, and overall show a very positive rating of cancer patients’ care: 89% of respondents rated their overall care as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’.

Scores on some individual questions are exceptionally high, with average scores over 80% (these include, for example, information about their cancer; treatment options; and being treated with dignity and respect).

But on other questions, there are poorer results, and it is clear that there is still some work to be done. These include some information/communication questions (being offered a written assessment and care plan; being told about the side effects of treatment; and being asked which name they prefer to be called). And also some questions on how different groups of professionals involved in their care work together (being given enough care and help from health and social services post discharge; different professionals working well together to give the patient the best possible care; and GPs and nurses at their general practice doing everything they can to support them whilst they were being treated).

Two of the important themes that we’ve seen in previous years are repeated again. First, the single most important factor affecting cancer patients’ experience is the presence of a named Clinical Nurse Specialist. If this is in place, virtually every other question in the survey is scored more highly. Secondly, the type of cancer significantly affects the experience people have – with patients with rarer cancers giving much lower scores than those with common cancers.

This year we also worked with NCIN to look at the relationship between how patients are diagnosed and what their experience is. We found that those who present initially through an emergency route are significantly less positive about their care than those who enter through a recognised, planned cancer pathway. This is a really important finding which will redouble the pressure to diagnose early – and it is the first time in the world it has been identified.

These are important findings. It’s hugely impressive that so many individual Trusts have made such massive progress since the first survey in 2010; and that the national results as a whole have got so much better. The lives and experiences of millions of cancer patients have directly improved as a result.

Quality Health developed and tested the questionnaire for the survey, and the methodology, and we’ve carried out all of the analysis and reporting over the last four years. We have run a version of this survey in Wales, and we’re currently mobilising the Northern Ireland version, and a smaller survey for patients in the Isle of Man. Scotland is actively considering doing one too. We’ve run a pilot in Qatar; and supported the survey in Australia. We’re aware of many other national and international initiatives around the world – as well as much smaller versions of the study (usually funded through the voluntary sector) looking at the experiences of particular groups of cancer patients.

These are all great examples of using patient experience data to directly influence service improvement (and in some cases to change policy). And all of the evidence suggests to us that this is direct engagement of frontline clinical staff with the results - because they know it's their data, from their specific patients, and they believe it. There are great lessons to be learned here for other areas of care. I’m immensely proud that Quality Health has been part of this.

Daniel Ratchford
Chief Executive

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