Nearly half (46%) of lung cancer patients report experiencing delays at some stage of their care – and only two thirds (64%) say they receive prompt referral to hospital - according to a national report published recently by leading lung cancer experts.

Published by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC), and based on a nationwide survey to gather insights from lung cancer patients and carers, it uncovers "worrying" discrepancies between what really matters to people living with lung cancer, current national targets, and the actual and care and treatment patients reported to receive.

“Despite 95% of respondents citing ‘prompt referral to hospital’ as a priority - our survey revealed that there are still too many patients facing unacceptable care delays. This is putting lives at risk,” says consultant thoracic surgeon, and chair of the UKLCC, Mr Richard Steyn.

In addition to care delays, the report also uncovers the "general lack of support and information" received by patients and carers’ reported by survey respondents - as well as ‘mixed levels’ of public and professional awareness about the disease.

“Only one in five (22%) of those patients surveyed reported to receive continuous support from a clinical nurse specialist; more than half were not provided with accurate information about their diagnosis (57.1%); and four out of ten respondents described their GPs’ understanding of lung cancer as ‘variable’, ‘not enough’ or ‘not at all’. Despite, major improvements in lung cancer services in recent years, and many patients reporting a positive experience of care, these results are sobering,” he added.

As a result, the UKLCC has set out a series of practical recommendations for national and local health and social care organisations to help promote and embed a more ‘patient-centred approach’ to lung cancer care. These include ensuring that all lung cancer patients receive a personalised care plan and that care providers produce action plans setting out steps to improve experiences reported by patients.

“A key way to improve the lot of lung cancer patients is to really understand what matters most to them and continually track this against their actual care experiences. This is the main thrust of this report,” says Dr Mick Peake, consultant and senior lecturer in respiratory medicine, chair of the clinical advisory group of the UKLCC, and clinical lead, National Cancer Intelligence Network and National Lung Cancer Audit.

Lung cancer continues to be the UK’s biggest cancer killer. There are almost 35,000 deaths every year, which amounts to a greater death toll than breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and leukaemia combined. It is reported that four people die from lung cancer in the UK every hour. 

The UKLCC’S vision is to double lung cancer survival during the next eight to ten years, with the co-operation of health professionals, policy makers, local primary care organisations, NHS and Government.