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More specialist nurses key to making 'ambitious' lung cancer goal 'achievable'

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All lung cancer patients must have access to a specialist nurse to help achieve a major improvement in survival rates, says a new report.

The 25 by 25 report, published by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC), calls for an ambitious goal of boosting five-year lung cancer survival rates to 25% by 2025.

“There aren’t enough nurses compared to the number of patients diagnosed”

Lavinia Magee

Currently five-year survival rates in England are estimated at about 16%, up from about 9% in 2005. However, the report suggests healthcare professionals are sceptical as to whether dramatic ongoing improvement in survival rates can be achieved.

It includes findings from a snapshot survey of nearly 150 professionals trained in treating lung cancer – including specialist nurses, pathologists, radiologists, oncologists, surgeons and respiratory physicians.

Overall, 65% said they felt five-year survival was “difficult to achieve” while 15% said it was “completely unachievable”.

“These views may be formed partly by recent cuts to funding for key services related to lung cancer such as smoking cessation, increasing strains on diagnostic capacity and ill-resourced multi-disciplinary teams – demonstrating that more needs to be done to support services to meet ambitions for long-term survival,” suggested the report.

UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC)

More specialist nurses key to meeting lung cancer goal

Lavinia Magee

It made 20 key recommendations to help overcome barriers to boosting survival rates. These include the fact lung cancer nurse specialists should be involved in all aspects of a patient’s care.

“Access to a lung cancer nurse specialist is one of the important contributing factors to improving long-term patient survival,” said Lavinia Magee, from the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses.

“Data shows where patients are seen by a lung cancer nurse specialist within a fully-functioning multi-disciplinary team, they are more likely to have a good experience of care and this can often lead to better outcomes,” she said.

“However, currently, due to financial pressures, there aren’t enough nurses compared to the number of patients diagnosed,” she added.

The survey of healthcare professionals found 65% believed early diagnosis to be the most important factor for improving five-year survival rates. A reduction in smoking rates was the second most important factor.

According to the report, boosting five-year survival rates to 25% by 2025 across the UK could save at least 4,000 more lives per year.

“A lung cancer diagnosis should not be a death sentence”

Richard Steyn

It called on all four UK nations to commit to achieving five-year survival rates that place them among the top 15 performing countries in Europe. Currently all four rank among the bottom 10.

Other key recommendations include the introduction of national lung cancer pathways in each nation designed to improve outcomes and experiences of care, and the introduction of UK-wide screening for at-risk groups.

“This report breathes new energy and enthusiasm into a lung cancer community, which recognises there is much more work to do,” said UKLCC chair Richard Steyn, a thoracic surgeon and associate medical director for surgery at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

“A lung cancer diagnosis should not be a death sentence,” he said. “We hope that government policy-makers and health services professionals in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support the UKLCC’s 25 by 25 ambition.”

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