What we are doing - cancer

Guy’s Cancer at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup

Guy’s and St Thomas’ state-of-the-art Cancer Centre, which was opened in May 2017, will provide 16,000 radiotherapy and 4,600 chemotherapy treatments a year, allowing patients to receive treatment close to home rather than having to make the trip to central London.

Previously, people living in outer south east London requiring radiotherapy (and most chemotherapy) treatment had to travel into London.

The centre is part of a £30 million redevelopment of the Queen Mary’s Hospital site, which is being led by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.

Guy’s Cancer at Queen Mary’s will include two new linear accelerator machines for radiotherapy treatment, as well as chemotherapy treatment facilities.

Macmillan Cancer Support and Dimbleby Cancer Care will also have a presence in the centre, with a £200,000 Dimbleby Macmillan Support Centre for cancer patients and their families. 

Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer

Cancer is the biggest cause of premature and avoidable death in south east London.

Approximately 42% of cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to a combination of lifestyle choices and other factors that are preventable. Smoking is the largest, single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK, with excess body weight being the second.

Late diagnosis of cancer is a major challenge. In south east London, more than half of patients with colorectal, lung, or ovarian cancers aren’t diagnosed until their cancers have progressed to stage 3 or 4.

We want to diagnose cancer in patients as early as possible. And, importantly, we want to support people to make choices that reduce their risk of developing cancer.

Living with and beyond cancer

There are 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK and this is projected to increase to 4 million by 2030. One in three cancer survivors experience moderate to severe unmet needs at the end of their treatment and for 60%, these needs have not improved six months after treatment.

In south east London we aim to ensure that people living with cancer, and their families, friends and carers, have access to the right treatment, care and support. Our priority is to focus on the implementation of stratified follow up for breast cancer and the ‘Recovery Package’ – a series of key interventions which, when delivered together, can greatly improve outcomes for people living with and beyond cancer. 

Education and training

Our initial focus is to support primary care (GPs and wider community healthcare) with a training and education package to support health professionals, non-medical staff and patients identify the signs and symptoms of cancer and diagnose cancers earlier.

It will also help health professionals and non-medical staff in GP practices, for example, to spot signs that a person needs psychological or emotional support and increase their knowledge of managing cancer as a long-term condition.

We aim to link the education and training programmes of primary care with education for health professionals in hospitals to increase opportunities for shared learning between health workers.

This is being supported by a more targeted programme of support, working closely with local cancer groups, groups representing local GPs and community care networks, Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK and other voluntary sector organisations to learn from good practice and use their expertise to help deliver better training across south east London.

We are working closely with Macmillan and Cancer Research UK on implementation of this work.

Acute oncology service

Acute oncology refers to managing the unexpected needs of patients with cancer, including diagnosis of cancer at A&E, cancer of unknown primary (where cancer cells are found in the body but the place the cancer began is not known), emergency situations and acutely unwell patients.

Patients sometimes arrive at A&E with chemotherapy or radiotherapy complications and symptoms of progressive disease.

Sometimes these patients are admitted to general medicine beds as they wait for specialist care.  This impacts on their experience and can adversely affect their health. We aim to get these patients the specialist care they need sooner, mainly through strengthening existing acute oncology services (cancer services in and across hospitals).

Co-ordinating these services more closely will provide more consistent standards of care and improve patient access to cancer specialists.

We aim to strengthen acute oncology services with an integrated IT system to enable faster referral to appropriate teams, health professionals having access to patients’ records and the integration of care for patients across different services in the hospital, such as surgery, radiology and pathology.

We also aim to establish shared standards and processes across hospitals so that they all offer the same quality of service.

Three NHS trusts in south east London – King’s College, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Lewisham and Greenwich – currently have their own acute oncology service phone line. We are working to create a single phone line instead, with links to e-prescribing systems. This 24-hour phone service will direct patients, carers and GPs to an appropriate service for urgent advice and support. This will help us to achieve a consistent approach for acute oncology services across our hospitals and reduce emergency admissions and attendance at A&E.

Chemotherapy closer to home

Many of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer can be safely delivered outside hospitals in the community.  

This improves patient choice and experience and helps manage increasing demand for chemotherapy. We aim to agree a model for delivering non-complex treatment options closer to home for people across south east London.

Developing better support for carers

There are at least 1.1 million carers in the UK and this number is rising. We are bringing in more comprehensive support to help people who care for family members, friends and loved ones.

We aim to identify carers as early as possible, to get them better prepared and supported with their own needs, as well as point them to information they may need. Carers will also be more involved in advanced care and discharge planning of the person they care for so that their own needs are considered.

There will be a range of support options, for example, Macmillan Cancer Support’s Identifying cancer carers and signposting them to support. groups and online, for instance.

Promoting healthy lifestyles

Through our community based care project, we aim to support people to live healthier lives. We are focusing on better health promotion and prevention for things like obesity, smoking and alcohol, as well as more health advice for pregnant women.

Read more about the work we are doing to support people to look after their health and live longer healthier lives in our community based care section.

Supporting people at the end of their life to have more control over their care

Through our community based care project, we also aim to enable people nearing the end of their life to die with dignity, to have more control over where they wish to die and improve the experience of patients, and their families, during end-of-life care.