New research finds cancer care ‘lacks compassion’

Too many cancer patients are being shown a “lack of compassion” by healthcare workers, a charity said.

A fifth of cancer patients said they felt like a “set of symptoms” rather than a person, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Meanwhile 17% of patients said their doctor spoke to them as though they were not even there.

Macmillan said that it is a “national shame” that patients are being treated with a lack of dignity.

The charity’s latest report, which draws from Macmillan’s own research and other evidence, also cautions about the perils of late diagnosis.

Tens of thousands are being diagnosed too late, it said.

One in four patients are only told they have the disease after they are admitted to hospital as an emergency.

The charity said that people diagnosed this way are twice as likely to die within a year compared to people who are referred to hospital by their GP.

It also raised concerns about one-year survival rates for colorectal, lung, breast and ovarian cancers, saying that Britain has one of the lowest survival rates for these types of disease when compared with comparable countries.

The report warns of a “looming cancer care crisis” – by 2020 almost half the population will develop some sort of cancer in their lifetimes but the health and social care systems are being “too slow” in reacting to the rapidly increasing number of people who are getting and surviving cancer.

“Any notions that cancer care in the UK is ‘fixed’ are rubbished by our findings,” said Macmillan Cancer Support’s chief executive Ciaran Devane.

“While the NHS does amazing things every day, it is a national shame that our cancer survival rates are amongst the worst in Europe, that patients are being treated with a lack of dignity, or being denied a ‘good’ death.

“Cancer patients no longer either simply get cured or die. Many live a long time but struggle with serious health problems. With the number of people living with cancer set to increase, political parties must ask themselves – how will we cope with these growing numbers when we cannot even meet the needs of many people today?

“This report must be a wake-up call to this Government and next to make sure cancer remains a top health priority. With a UK cancer crisis looming, we must take action now.”