The what, why and how of health and development

High satisfaction with NHS care among cancer patients – but home care needs improvement

Every year the government commissions a survey of people with cancer to find out their experiences of being cared for by the NHS. The results from the latest research were published a few weeks ago, showing overall high levels of satisfaction among cancer patients about the care they received.

Over 87% of respondents said that, overall, they were treated with dignity and respect in hospital, with 78% saying they were definitely involved as much as they wanted to be with decisions about their care.

There were also positive findings regarding the involvement of Clinical Nurse Specialists, with 90% of those asked saying they were told the name of a Specialist who would support them and 87% saying it had been “very easy” or “quite easy” to get in touch with them.

However there are obvious areas for improvement. Although many people said they were told about told about support groups and entitlements to free prescriptions, only 55% said that hospital staff gave them information about how to get financial help or any benefits they might be entitled to.

There were similar low responses to questions about home care. When the cancer patients were asked if doctors or nurses definitely gave their family or someone close to them all the info they needed to help care for them at home, only 58% said that happened. Only 54% said they definitely received enough care and support from health and social services such as district nurses, home helps or physiotherapists during their cancer treatment.

Lack of integration?

Although they can only tell us so much, these statistics suggest the handover from hospital-based secondary care to community or home-based primary care is not as smooth as it could be. This may tie into the need for better integrated health and social care in the NHS. Although the benefits of better ‘integrated care’ have been recognised for decades it has only started to take centre-stage in NHS policy in recent years. How this might look in reality is still a work in progress.

The big government financing programme to explore better integrated care takes the form of the Bigger Care Fund announced in 2013. This involves the transfer of 5.6bn pounds from NHS to a pooled health and social care fund for new integrated care initiatives. The work on this has only really just started in the past few years and it will take time before its successes and failures reveal themselves. However it has not been without controversy – from a financial perspective, the government’s own Audit Office projected it would save less than a third of the amount projected at best and might not even do the job it set out to do.

 

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