Old people with docPoor progress in some areas of multidisciplinary team (MDT) working is hindering patient treatment and survival, says a new report launched by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC). It states that lung cancer MDTs are not performing well in some key areas and large numbers of patients are still not being diagnosed early enough. 

As well as tracking progress made since the launch of the ‘The Dream MDT for lung cancer’ published in 2012 - the report maps out 12 new priorities for the future. The comprehensive review collates views and insights from active lung cancer MDT members across the country and analyses data on MDT performance from the most recently published National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (NCPES), National Lung Cancer Audit (NLCA), and Lung Cancer Service Profiles (LCSP).

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

“The number of patients being diagnosed with stage IIIB or IV lung cancer varies from 11 percent to 76 percent across England,” says Dr Mick Peake, Chair of the UKLCC’s Clinical Advisory Group and Clinical Lead, National Cancer Intelligence Network and National Lung Cancer Audit. “Such a high variation cannot continue if lung cancer patients are to be given the best possible chances of receiving appropriate and effective treatment. Nearly one-third of lung cancer patients have to see their GP three times or more before being referred to hospital; a figure which has shown no improvement in the last year. We are calling for GPs to ensure that patients with signs and symptoms of lung cancer are urgently referred through the two week wait pathway. The earlier we diagnose lung cancer, the more likely patients can be treated and survive.”

Despite improvements in services in recent years, wide variations in lung cancer treatment and care continue to persist across the UK and treatment and survival rates lag behind other comparable countries in Europe. Patients in the UK are diagnosed with more advanced disease than many other countries and almost 40% first reach specialist care via an emergency admission to hospital.

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

“Multi-disciplinary teams are at the heart of delivering improved outcomes for lung cancer patients, yet some aspects of MDT working still require drastic improvement across the country,” says Mr Richard Steyn, Chair of the UKLCC and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Medical Director, Surgery, at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. “Only through continual monitoring, evaluation and service improvement will all patients receive the treatment they both need and deserve.”

The UKLCC plans to undertake a further review of lung cancer MDTs in 2016 and annually thereafter.