No key worker for 14% of Wales cancer patients

Man receives chemotheraphy Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Patients also said they sometimes had difficulties contacting their key worker

Fourteen percent of cancer patients in Wales still do not have a key worker to co-ordinate their care, a study showed.

The Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey said 86% of respondents report having a key worker compared with 66% in the 2014 survey.

But the report noted it was "short of the 100% aspired to".

The Welsh Government said in May 2010 health boards should ensure the workers - who help co-ordinate patients' care - were in place by the end of March 2011.

A total of 6,700 patients took part in the survey, conducted on behalf of the Welsh Government and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The report noted patients also reported sometimes experiencing difficulties in contacting their key worker - 74% found the person easy to contact.

When they were able to get in contact, the vast majority of patients always or mostly received understandable answers to any important questions.

The report noted the positive impact of a key worker was "undoubtedly clear".

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Most people said they had a positive experience during their treatment

Susan Morris, head of services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said while they were pleased 86% of patients had a key worker, "this falls short of the 100% commitment in the Wales cancer plan".

"Another area for improvement is the ease of contacting a key worker as more than a quarter of the people surveyed said it wasn't easy to do this," she said.

"Key workers, who are usually the clinical nurse specialist, help navigate people with cancer and their loved ones through the complex cancer care system and ensure they have a single point of contact for information and support."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said last month the Welsh Government "still working towards" making sure all cancer patients have a key worker.

The survey also found:

  • 93% of respondents said they had a positive experience during their treatment
  • 97% of respondents who had a choice of treatments said that their treatment options were explained to them
  • 90% rated the overall administration of their care as "good" or "very good"

But the Welsh Government said the survey also highlighted areas for continued focus:

  • 48% of respondents said that they had the opportunity to discuss their needs and concerns as part of the development of a care plan
  • less than 18% were offered a written care plan
  • there is a need for further work to understand and improve patient experience for those with certain cancers such as sarcoma and brain cancer

The survey is the second of its kind and aims to improve standards for cancer services across the country.

In the previous survey published in January 2014, which more than 7,000 patients answered, 89% said treatment was either excellent or good.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: "It is a tremendous testament to the dedication, skill and compassion of those delivering cancer care that 93% of respondents rated their care seven or more out of 10. This is exceptional and is only possible due to the quality and dedication of healthcare professionals across Wales.

"Whilst it would be very easy to focus on only the positive outcomes of this survey - it is vital that we do not lose sight of areas where we can do better. We will not rest until all these issues are addressed."

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