9 June 2011
Around 15,000 people in the UK over 75 are dying prematurely from cancer each year when compared to the best performing countries worldwide - despite five-year survival rates improving for most types of cancer in England.
Thirteen new pilots have been launched today to target the gap in cancer survival rates and reduce excess deaths in older age groups by addressing some of the key factors that contribute to this:
- patients refusing cancer treatment because they are worried who will take on their responsibilities if they were in hospital and how they would cope with the impact of treatment, and
- the NHS determining what treatment a patient should be offered based on their age, rather than their physical and mental ability to cope with cancer treatments.*
The one year pilot programme, which is co-funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and the Department of Health, and supported by Age UK, will introduce:
- new ways of assessing an older person for cancer treatment – ensuring that effective assessment methods routinely used in geriatric medicine be adopted in cancer services to support clinicians and patients to make more appropriate treatment decisions. This should lead to identifying more people over 70 for whom curative treatment would be appropriate.
- short-term practical support for older people undergoing cancer treatment – anecdotally we know that some older people refuse cancer treatment because they don’t feel they'll be able to maintain their independence and cope at home as a result of it. By providing practical support, e.g. transport, housekeeping, shopping and dog-walking, more older people will feel confident and supported to take up the treatment they are recommended.
- address any age discrimination in cancer services - the pilots will identify and address the training needs of all professionals working with older people in order to promote age equality and ensure that everyone receives the very best treatment they need.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
‘Overall cancer survival rates are improving but worryingly not as much for older people over 70 - who account for half of people with a cancer diagnosis. There is strong evidence to show that age, not their health, is the main consideration when choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment for older people. It is absolutely vital that we look at new assessment methods in order to improve survival rates and the experience of older people with cancer.’
Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow, said:
‘We know that some of our outcomes for common conditions like cancer are not as good as they should be when compared to the European average. If the NHS was performing at this level, we would save an extra 5,000 lives from cancer every year. We can, and must, do better.
‘I want our NHS to be truly-world class. These pilots will help us to deliver this; by making sure that the needs of older people with cancer are properly assessed and met. This is a great example of what can be achieved in a modern NHS for patients when the health professionals and charities work closely together.’
Helena Herklots, Services Director at Age UK, said:
‘Life expectancy rates of older people with cancer in the UK are currently significantly shorter than those of other countries and this urgently needs to change. The one-year pilot programme being trialled by Macmillan Cancer Support, the Department of Health and Age UK will be a crucial step in addressing the under treatment of older people with cancer, identifying ways to ensure patients receive fair and equal access to the treatment and support they deserve.’
The pilot sites, which will run for a year, are located at hospitals across England. For more information about the pilots, please visit: www.macmillan.org.uk/olderpeople.
*** SPOKESPEOPLE AVAILABLE***
For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Openshaw – Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4699 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Department of Health Newsdesk: 020 7210 5221
Out of Hours: 07050 073 581 (19:00 - 08:00)
Notes to Editors:
* It is often inappropriate for elderly, frail people to receive radical treatment for cancer, but many people in their 70s, 80s and 90s are fit and well and can benefit from such treatment. It is essential that no one’s scope to benefit is judged solely on their age, rather than on their physical and mental ability to cope with cancer treatments.
About the pilots:
- Improving Cancer Treatment Assessment and Support for Older People Project: jointly funded by the Department of Health and Macmillan Cancer Support (registered charity no 261017), supported by Age UK (registered charity no 1128267)
- The pilot project will see greater collaboration between acute care, primary care, social services and the voluntary sector to ensure that older people with cancer have their ability to benefit from curative treatment and their needs fully assessed, so that anyone who can benefit from curative treatment will receive along with practical support during treatment.
About the 15,000 figure:
This is the excess deaths of people over 75 with cancer compared with the countries with the best mortality rates. Mortality rates reflect differences in incidence and stage of cancer at diagnosis as well as differences in rates of curative treatment interventions.
About Macmillan Cancer Support:
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. One in three of us will get cancer. Two million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.
Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm. Calls are free, including from mobiles or visit www.macmillan.org.uk.
About Age UK:
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.
Age UK provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group (“we”). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).