East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust Pancreatic Cancer Rapid Diagnostic Service (RDS) has kickstarted November’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month with a win at the Macmillan Professionals Excellence Awards, as recognition of their outstanding contribution to cancer services.
The service is part of a Lancashire and South Cumbria wide initiative designed to support earlier diagnosis in pancreatic cancer and came out top in the ‘Integration Excellence’ category. The award recognises teams who have improved the coordination of services and enabled integration across settings such as acute, primary, social and voluntary services to provide a seamless experience for people living with cancer.
The ELHT Cancer Services Team was nominated for their collaborative working with colleagues including diagnostic specialists, biomedical scientists and clinicians. They also work closely with representatives from the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, Primary Care Networks and 3rd sector organisations, Pancreatic Cancer Action and Pancreatic Cancer UK.
The successful collaborative work has meant that an average wait time for a patient to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer has reduced considerably following GP referral.
Vicki-Stevenson Hornby, a Pancreatic Specialist Nurse within the team, was overjoyed to win the award with the team. She said:
“For me, the ‘win’ here is for patients and families affected by pancreatic cancer as this gives a platform to the whole Rapid Diagnostic Process and the impact which that can have. This National award and recognition gives a national platform and therefore the possibility of more patients and families receiving earlier diagnosis and enhanced support throughout the investigations. For this award to be received during pancreatic awareness month really elevates the whole awareness process.”
In England, 79% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage meaning one in four who are diagnosed with the disease sadly die within 28 days due to late stage diagnosis.
Caroline Rogers, Macmillan Assistant Director of Nursing for Cancer Services at the Trust, said: “I am delighted that the team have received recognition for their hard work in creating this new patient pathway despite the challenges of the last 18 months. I have seen the core team members strive to achieve excellence driven by a desire to change the story of the previous 50 years of little to no improvement in survivability of pancreatic cancer. This is the beginning of the new story and has already improved the quality of life for many newly diagnosed patients.”
The team are now exceeding national targets for diagnosis waiting times, with NHS England and Improvement setting a national expectation that patients will wait no more than 28 days for a fast diagnosis.
Daren Subar, Clinical Lead for the Pancreatic Cancer Rapid Diagnostic Service, said: “The Rapid Diagnostic Service shows the importance of team working across primary and secondary care. We are seeing clear improvements for patients through the effective collaborative working. Receiving this excellence award raises the profile of this important and effective initiative which, in turn, raises awareness of pancreatic cancer which is vital in terms of achieving earlier diagnosis.”
Although the team are working hard to diagnose faster, there is still lots more work to be done, especially to raise awareness during the month of November. The most common symptoms of the disease are jaundice: the whites of your eyes or skin could turn yellow, you may also have itchy skin, darker pee or paler poo than usual; loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to do; back pain; nausea or vomiting or a persistent change in bowel habits. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your GP as soon as possible to be checked out.
Dr Neil Smith, Blackburn GP and Cancer lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria, said : “This is fantastic news and I am delighted that the work of the team has been recognised in this way. Patients are the real winners here as the Rapid Diagnostic Service is making a significant difference to the way we diagnose pancreatic cancer and the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.”