Cancer patients ‘let down by north London hospitals’

north London cancer patients have the worst hospital experience in the country according to new figures released this week.

St Mary’s in Paddington, the Royal Free in Hampstead and the Whittington in Highgate were worst and equal second worst respectively in the list which features eight London hospitals in the worst top 10.

The findings come from leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support’s analysis of the latest Department of Health patient experience survey, which looks at the care and support a cancer patient has received, and ranks their overall hospital experience as opposed to their clinical or surgical treatment.

Patients were asked to rate the numbers of nurses on duty, the standard of emotional and financial support and the quality of health and social services away from hospital.

Stephen Richards, Macmillan’s director for England, said: “The overall experience you have in hospital can have a massive impact on your health and well-being and how you cope. We hope the trusts will take urgent action to improve the support and care they offer cancer patients.”


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Neil Woodnick from Camden LINk, the organisation which works to improve local health services, said he was disappointed with the survey results.

The Royal Free acknowledged the disappointing results of the survey and said it has since made improvements with the introduction of nurse managers, more frequent nurse rounds, the reduction of clinic waiting times and the preparation of patient ‘action plans’ overseen by cancer specialists.

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Director of cancer services Dr Adrian Tookman said: “We will continue to work closely with Macmillan and other partner organisations to further improve the patient experience for our cancer patients.”

Dr Pauline Leonard, a cancer specialist at the Whittington Hospital, said it was important to remember the survey was about patient experience, not clinical care.

“We are taking this very seriously because if this is the experience of our cancer patients then it is the experience of all our patients,” she said. “The chairman of the trust has formed a group looking at patient experience and we are looking at a whole range of things. We fall a long way short of the top performing hospitals so have a lot to do.”

A spokeswoman at St Mary’s, which is run by Imperial College Healthcare, said: “We acknowledge that the care we provided to some of our cancer patients was below the standard we strive to deliver. We listen to patient feedback and have implemented a number of improvement programmes.”

Nursing in cancer wards has been reviewed, a new chemotherapy suite and specialist young person’s cancer unit provided and survey equipment has been installed to allow patients to give feedback, she said.

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