All hospitals with an emergency department asked to provide acute oncology services

New best practice guidance published to improve quality and safety of chemotherapy.

Experts have recommended that all hospitals with an A&E department should provide acute oncology services to ensure the correct treatment of emergency cancer patients and those who suffer severe side effects from chemotherapy, Health Minister Ann Keen announced.

The recommendation forms part of new best practice to improve the quality and safety of chemotherapy published by the National Chemotherapy Advisory Group (NCAG).

The report titled – Chemotherapy Services in England: Ensuring quality and safety sets out:

  • Recommendations that all hospitals with emergency departments should establish an acute oncology service that can quickly identify the symptoms and then treat appropriately patients who develop severe side effects from chemotherapy or undiagnosed cancer patients who present as emergencies

  • Further recommendations on issues around chemotherapy such as decision to treat, patient consent, prescribing and dispensing, and information for patients and carers

  • A new framework for commissioning, delivering and monitoring chemotherapy services

  • The importance of information and communication when treating chemotherapy patients

Health Minister Ann Keen said:

"I welcome the report published by the National Chemotherapy Advisory Group which makes recommendations on improving the quality and safety of chemotherapy services.

"The report's main recommendation is that all hospitals with emergency departments should establish an acute oncology service which will look after patients who develop severe side affects after chemotherapy and patients who present as emergencies with previously undiagnosed cancer.

"All cancer treatment in Britain has improved vastly in recent years due to the excellent progress the NHS has made in improving cancer outcomes and services for patients.

“The challenge now is to keep up this momentum and we will now work with the NHS to implement the recommendations of this report."

National Cancer Director Mike Richards said:

“The use of chemotherapy has expanded markedly in recent years and while this has brought huge benefits to the majority of patients serious concerns have been identified in the quality and safety of treatments.

“This new guidance will help all hospitals improve the quality and safety of their treatment and I urgently ask them to adopt these guidelines.

“Setting up acute oncology services is an innovative idea. We have done an impact assessment which has found the implementation cost will be neutral overall because the improved quality of treatment will reduce the number of emergency bed days.”

Cancer Research UK Chief Executive Harpal Kumar said:

"It's vitally important that A&E departments are able to offer a specialist cancer service. Many people with undiagnosed cancer either don't recognise or choose to ignore signs and symptoms of the disease for so long that they eventually end up being admitted to hospital in an emergency.

"Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health have established the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) to encourage people to be aware of symptoms and visit their family doctor with concerns early enough. But we need to have in place adequate systems for people who leave it too late, so we welcome this new initiative."
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