Expanding the role for GPs in cancer care

Dr Cliff Jones, National GP Cancer Lead for the Macmillan Framework for Cancer in Primary Care Programme outlines why GPs are central to the transformation of cancer services in Wales.

Cliff Jones - croppedThe nature of cancer is changing.  Over the last 30 years we’ve seen significant changes in cancer treatment and now more people than ever are surviving cancer.  Some are cured but many continue to live with the impact and consequences of their cancer for many years after.

For years the emphasis for cancer treatment has been on hospital based clinicians that specialise in high tech procedures, but now there is now an increasing focus on the expanding role of GPs and other community based care in providing cancer care services.

Greg Rubin, a Professor of General Practice researching cancer diagnosis at Durham University, recently wrote in The Lancet about the increasing focus on primary care in cancer control.  He looks at how public and political demand are fuelling a stronger emphasis on prevention, early diagnosis and patient experience during and after treatment and why it is now timely to consider the expanding role of primary and community based care in cancer control, which to date has largely been perceived as marginal.

Professor Rubin’s words ring very true for me.

I believe that GPs and other community based health care professionals will play an important part in the transformation of cancer services in Wales.  I believe that GPs can help to close the gap between cancer survival rates in Wales and the rest of Europe and make sure that people who are affected by cancer are able to live well once their hospital treatment has finished.

As well as my main work as a GP in a Valleys practice in South East Wales, I have recently taken on the role of the national GP Cancer Lead for an ambitious new programme of work for Wales.  The Macmillan Framework for Cancer in Primary Care programme has been set up to support GPs and others in primary and community care to provide the best cancer services for patients.

The programme is designed to help patients at every step of their journey.  From helping GPs to secure an early cancer diagnosis, all the way through to supporting GPs to be able to provide the best care services once patients finish their acute treatment in hospital and return to their own communities.

The programme also puts a strong emphasis on supporting GPs to improve the experience of the patient, making sure that people affected by cancer are treated with sensitivity and compassion and that their care goes beyond the clinical to address the wider social, financial, emotional, practical and psychological concerns.

The programme is recruiting GP Cancer Leads and Facilitators into Wales’ seven Health Boards and also to Velindre NHS Trust.  Other Primary and Community Care health care professionals will join the team to form a ‘Community of Practice and Influence’ to lead this programme or work.

I’m excited about what we can achieve for cancer services in Wales over the next few years.  If you’d like to know more take a look at our web pages or get in touch any of us from the Programme Team.

You can follow Dr Cliff Jones on Twitter @CliffJonesGP

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