A new £100m cancer strategy for Scotland promises every patient will have access to a specialist nurse when they need one.
The Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action vision sets out measures to improve prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and after care over the next five to 10 years.
“Cancer services have come a long way over the past 10 years with cancer mortality rates down 11%. However, more needs to be done,” said Scottish health secretary Shona Robison, who launched the strategy earlier today.
“Our ambition is that, through this strategy, we will work with people with cancer, clinicians, service providers and third sector colleagues to reduce the impact of cancer and achieve world-class cancer outcomes for the people of Scotland,” she added.
Under the strategy, the goal is that by 2021 every person with cancer will have access to a specialist nurse during and after their treatment when needed.
The Scottish government “will put the necessary levels of training in place” to make sure that happens, stated the document.
The strategy, which contains more than 50 actions, includes £50m to pay for state-of-the-art radiotherapy equipment and to support the recruitment and training of staff.
It also includes £10m to boost access to diagnostic services – such as endoscopy – for people with suspected cancer.
Short-term targets include increasing by 40% the number of nurse endoscopists in training – who will be available for work next year.
In addition, the plan includes the creation of six new diagnostic and treatment centres across the country by 2021.
The strategy highlights the importance of drawing on the skills of a wide range of healthcare professionals, including specialist nurses and advanced nurse practitioners.
“Providing Scotland’s people with high quality services requires sufficient numbers of the right staff in the right location with appropriate skills,” said the document.
It added that £27m announced last month to train nurses and doctors would go some way towards ensuring cancer services had adequate staffing levels.
Meanwhile, workforce planning for cancer – including training and education – will eventually be done on a national basis.
“Scotland’s cancer survival still lags behind its UK and European neighbours”
A further £3.5m has been allocated over four years to improve palliative care and support targeted training and education.
It also promises education and training for clinicians working in primary care to help them spot signs of cancer as early as possible.
As well as aiding swift diagnosis, primary and community teams can play an important role in supporting people with cancer and their families while receiving treatment, said the document.
For example, in some parts of Scotland local surgeries and district nursing teams carry out vital blood tests for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The strategy has been welcomed by cancer charities, who said they would be closely monitoring progress on meeting its goals.
“Scotland’s cancer survival still lags behind its UK and European neighbours and this strategy sets out strong ambitions to help tackle this,” said Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland.
The Royal College of Radiologists said it welcomes the new strategy but expressed concern as to “how effective the strategy will be in practice if certain key issues remain unaddressed”.
Dr Paddy Niblock, chair of the college’s Standing Scottish Committee, said: “This is an ambitious strategy, which addresses equity of access to high quality services and effective cancer treatments regardless of geographical boundaries and, as such, is to be applauded.
“The clinical radiology workforce is integral to the early detection and ongoing monitoring of cancer and therefore fundamental to improving outcomes for cancer patients,” he said. ”We look forward to hearing how much of the new diagnostic fund will be devoted to the training of more radiologists.”