Army of local volunteers to be recruited to tackle cancer diagnosis, treatment and care inequalities
1 year ago
An army of voluntary groups is set to be recruited across Cheshire and Merseyside to help tackle inequalities in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care.
There have been huge strides over the past decades in improving the outcomes for patients with cancer and while one in two people will develop the disease in their lifetime, twice as many are living on for many years after a diagnosis in the UK than 40 years ago.
However, these tremendous gains are not reflected across all society as some people face more barriers to receiving high quality NHS care than others.
This is the case in Cheshire and Merseyside as much as in the rest of the UK, and World Cancer Day – on Friday, February 4th – is highlighting this issue with its theme of ‘Close the Care Gap’, putting a spotlight on the obstacles that prevent people getting the cancer care they need and deserve.
Often, this inequity stems from deprivation and almost a quarter of neighbourhoods in Cheshire and Merseyside are in the top 10% most deprived in England. People living in these areas are more likely to die from cancer and there are around 19,000 extra deaths from cancer per year in England because mortality rates are higher in more deprived groups for most cancers.
Merseyside also has some of the worst levels of adult literacy in the country and people with low levels of health literacy are hospitalised more frequently, are less likely to undergo cancer screening and more likely to have their cancer detected at a later stage when it is harder to treat successfully.
Merseyside is an area which has worse than average levels of cancer generally and records:
- Liver cancer rates double the number than in the rest of England
- 75% more cases of lung, trachea and bronchus cancers than the rest of England
- 30% higher incidence of head and neck cancers than the national average
- Cervical cancer rates 35% higher than in the country as a whole
- Bladder cancer 17% higher than the England average
In response to these figures, Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA) has renewed its focus on addressing health inequities with a fresh emphasis on closing the care gap through a number of projects and activities. As well as deprivation, people may encounter barriers to accessing excellent NHS care due to many reasons, including where they live, their language, age, sexual orientation and ethnicity.
CMCA has recently recruited a team to tackle these obstacles, by recognising them and putting plans in place to support people and communities to overcome them.
Jo Trask, CMCA’s Macmillan Patient Experience and Health Inequalities Manager, said:
“Long-standing and deep-seated inequities are preventing society moving forward at the same pace in improving outcomes for those with cancer.
“Cancer death rates have been falling over the past few decades due to reasons which include declines in smoking, improved early detection and the amazing advances in treatments. But some sections of society have benefited much more than others – and we need to tackle the inequity that continues to plague us.
“We know that cancer can be treated more successfully if it is detected early – but some people are much more likely to seek medical help earlier than others, either because they are more aware of the symptoms to look out for or they feel more empowered to come forward.
“We need to recognise the problems, talk about them and put solutions in place so that we can level everyone up to expect the same level of outcome if they get cancer. For some people, where they live, who they are, where they come from, what they do, what language they speak and who they love can stand between them and the cancer care and treatment they deserve.”
Find out more about World Cancer Day and Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance here.
Jo’s team is inviting more than 250 local community organisations to work with them on a range of projects to tackle the problem and there will be a series of roadshows going around Cheshire and Merseyside in May and June to press home the message.
Jo said: “We are also introducing a pilot project in one of our areas to invite local people to become Cancer Champions, trained to start a conversation about cancer, discuss signs and symptoms of the disease and support people to get the help they need.
“We are also ensuring patients’ surveys around cancer are truly accessible, offering information in five commonly used languages, in easy read and with a British Sign Language video to ensure everyone is aware of the survey and can get help filling this in.”
Jo added: “We are creating a foundation of engagement, where organisations across Cheshire and Merseyside choose their level of involvement supporting us to engage with the public, with specific communities, to share this important health messaging.
“World Cancer Day is a timely reminder that we need to increase our efforts to ensure no-one is left behind in the prevention of suffering through cancer.”