Lack of access to specialists is a major factor in the UK’s high lung cancer mortality rates, according to the UK Lung Cancer Coalition.
The coalition, which includes doctors, pharmaceutical companies and patient groups, has produced an “aspirational” guide to delivering lung cancer care.
Late diagnosis, poorly structured care teams and a “nihilistic view” of the patient’s prognosis were also identified as reducing patient survival rates.
The coalition’s Dream MDT report makes 30 recommendations for delivering lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and care through multidisciplinary teams (MDTs).
The report says these recommendations “should challenge lung cancer practice to strive to exceed, rather than simply meet, NICE guidelines”.
The UK has 240 lung cancer MDTs but too few specialists and a culture of low expectation, the coalition argues. Its recommendations include:
• A Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist should play a key role in ensuring optimal care for each patient.
• Transfer of care from secondary to primary care needs to be improved, with the GP informed of the patient’s progress at all stages.
• Each patient should be assigned a specialist lung cancer physician to manage their treatment.
• The MDT should deliver a two-stage process: diagnosis and treatment.
• Patients should know at all times what the next step is in their care pathway.
According to the coalition, about a third of NHS lung cancer patients do not have access to lung cancer specialist nurses or physicians.
By following the recommendations, the NHS could save 10% of the lives currently being lost to lung cancer, the coalition argued.
While smoking cessation programmes have reduced the incidence of lung cancer, prognosis for those diagnosed with the condition is usually poor.