News that the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has bowed to pressure not to scrap all 28 NHS cancer networks is welcome.
It is however surprising that he resisted the change for months, despite widespread opposition from the government's own 'cancer tsar' and leading cancer charities, one of whom described the plans as 'absolute madness'. The networks work both with primary care trusts and hospitals to improve patient care. They have been one of the NHS's great successes in recent years.
Managing cancer better is a priority. Outcomes from treatment of many forms of cancer are not as good as in some of our European neighbours. Whilst this is not necessarily a criticism of our doctors – it is possible for instance that some patients consult doctors later than they should – there are areas in which our standards of care can improve.
Quite a lot of my work (and that of my colleagues) focuses on errors in managing different types of cancer. This week I have for instance been working on cases involving melanoma (skin cancer), bowel, breast and lung cancer. Many of these patients could have looked forward to better outcomes had it not been for avoidable mistakes and in many cases the errors have proved to be tragic. Anything that can be done to improve care is to be welcomed and preserving services which have resulted in better management is essential.
The Health Secretary is facing a lot of opposition to many of his plans for NHS reform – Nick Clegg came out this week strongly opposed to a regulator focussed on competition rather than protecting the interests of patients. We wait to see whether Andrew Lansley is going to listen to his critics on some other issues.
Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.