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Newham has country’s lowest cancer survival rate as NHS ‘struggling to cope’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 March 2016

Newham University Hospital

Newham University Hospital

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“Deeply concerning” figures show Newham is the worst place to be diagnosed with cancer in the country, prompting calls for improvements in care by leading figures.

Health body ‘actively addressing’ issues

The organisation responsible for improving the borough’s rock-bottom survival rates is Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

It said it was “actively addressing” treatment of cancer and acknowledged it as an area that “needs to be improved.”

“Newham has a rapidly growing, diverse population and we continue to work with local GPs and other health and social care organisations across the area to tackle the challenges that we face locally,” a spokesperson said.

Partnerships with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan are two examples of how the CCG is “working to improve cancer services”, the spokesperson added.

But raising awareness remains a necessity in the eyes of the CCG.

“The fact is that spotting cancer early can make a big difference,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why we’re working with local community groups to raise awareness.”

West Ham MP Lyn Brown, who lost her mother to breast cancer, said the borough needs “to do better” on hearing the Office for National Statistics figures, while cancer charity Macmillan branded the news “deeply concerning” and said the NHS was “struggling to cope”.

According to diagnoses made up to 2013, for patients with any kind of cancer as an adult (deemed as 15 to 99 years old), your overall chance of survival one year after the diagnosis is 63.9 per cent in Newham – 7pc lower than the London average and more than 10pc lower than leading boroughs Harrow and Brent.

But the figures, while new, tell a very familiar story – that the borough has been behind its neighbours, and the rest of England, for a long time.

Even in 1998, the furthest back the data goes, Newham was still bottom of the pile, with a 52pc chance of survival one year after cancer diagnosis.

Lyn Brown MP looks at a mammography machine at St. Barts Hospital.Lyn Brown MP looks at a mammography machine at St. Barts Hospital.

At that time Richmond had nearly 12pc higher survival rates at 63.6pc – a level it has taken Newham 16 years to achieve.

In 2005, the borough had pushed the survival rate up to 57.8pc but, in what appears to be replicated across the numbers, Richmond was then on 68pc – a full 10 points higher and still higher than Newham even today.

Analysing the figures, a spokesperson for charity Macmillan Cancer Support said Newham’s low rates were most likely because of late diagnoses.

According to the charity, the main causes of this are patients failing to report symptoms, delayed referrals by GPs and problems accessing treatment.

The charity is hoping to improve this by sending its own GPs on to the frontline to offer “cancer leadership” – but a regional boss acknowledges that current levels are unacceptable.

“The low survival rate figures for Newham are deeply concerning and show cancer can devastate the lives of people of all ages,” said Nikki Cannon, senior development manager for London at Macmillan.

“The NHS is already struggling to cope, and with the number of people diagnosed with cancer continuing to rise it is under even more pressure. The system can’t stay as it is – it needs to change.”

For Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham since 2005, the issue is a personal as well as professional matter, having lost her mother to cancer in 2011.

“The role of screening services in detecting cancers early is vital, as we all know that early detection is a huge factor in successful treatment,” she said.

“Too often in Newham cancer is detected in the accident and emergency service, meaning that symptoms are already advanced.”

She praised cervical cancer efforts in the borough but noted the take-up rate is merely one in five, while also stressing the importance of raising awareness.

“Local campaigns are really important – the national ones do not really resonate loudly enough in areas so vibrantly different from the average across the rest of the country,” she added, pointing to the success of the “small c” campaign that led to improvements in breast cancer awareness. But the MP said it also comes down to money.

“It grieves me that resources made available to spend on public health have been slashed, and face even further cuts,” she said.

“It just makes no sense and I will continue to bang on about it in Parliament and anywhere else where people will listen.”


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