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New national tumour standards will improve consistency of care

Dr Charles de Groot

Dr Charles de Groot

The new national tumour standards for the most common tumour types will, over time, improve consistency of care for cancer patients across all district health boards (DHBs), says one of the specialists involved in their development.

The new standards for bowel, breast, gynaecological, lymphoma, head and neck, melanoma, myeloma, sarcoma, thyroid and upper gastrointestinal cancers describe the care and services a person with cancer should have access to, no matter where they live in the country.

These standards build on the success of the tumour standards for lung cancer published in 2011. All tumour standard documents cover:

  • timely access to services
  • referral and communication
  • data collection
  • investigations, diagnosis and staging
  • multidisciplinary care
  • supportive care coordination
  • palliative care
  • treatment
  • follow-up and surveillance

DHBs will review their existing services against one tumour standard in 2013/14 and three more in 2014/15.

Dr Charles de Groot is clinical director of Waikato District Health Board’s department of radiation oncology and chair of the lung cancer working group that developed the lung cancer standard.

He says the standards are built around the patient’s journey, rather than traditional ‘silos’ of hospital oncology care such as surgery, radiation therapy, medical oncology or respiratory medicine, in the case of lung cancer.

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‘They have been developed by multidisciplinary clinical staff with expertise in the various tumour streams with strong input from cancer patients and their families throughout the process. This has resulted in excellent buy-in to the standards from those working in cancer treatment.

‘Our patients will be supported through their journey and we will be able to monitor and measure our performance against the standards, says Dr de Groot. ‘If we are consistently able to meet our standards we can be confident our patients will be getting timely, high quality care.

‘This should improve consistency of care across DHBs, and particularly improve outcomes for patients living away from the main centres.’

Dr de Groot says although the lung cancer standards remain a work in progress, there have been improvements against the majority of the standards since they were introduced.

‘Timeliness in management, access to cancer nurses and the multifaceted support they bring, and the increase in numbers of patients discussed at multidisciplinary meetings are among the tangible benefits we’ve seen.’

The new standards have been developed by clinical working groups made up of health professionals from across the cancer pathway, and are based on established national and international evidence-based guidelines, or expert opinion. The groups had access to expert advisors, including Māori and consumer health representatives.

Draft standards were circulated for feedback in April and May 2013 and more than 160 submissions were received.

The tumour standards will be informally reviewed and updated by the clinical working groups in 2015 and formally reviewed in 2018 to ensure they are still current.

Further information can be found here: www.hiirc.org.nz/page/44424

The Government has confirmed funding of $11.2m over four years for a new Service Improvement Fund to support DHBs to make sustainable cancer service improvements.

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