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Evaluation of melanoma care in UK


A group of eminent melanoma specialists has today published an evaluation of melanoma care in the UK, setting out a vision for best practice care for melanoma patients.
Quality in melanoma care: a best practice pathway was commissioned by the Melanoma Taskforce, a parliamentary forum chaired by Siân James MP, in order to address concerns that variations in the management of melanoma across the NHS in England may be having a negative impact on patient outcomes.
In order to investigate this issue further, Ms James selected a group of the UK’s leading melanoma specialists to assess existing melanoma treatment pathways and to propose a series of practical solutions to reduce variation in the quality of care and ultimately improve patient outcomes. The overarching aim of this project has been to produce a resource that will inform and support commissioners, so that melanoma patients have access to the right quality care, at the right time, irrespective of location.
The Expert Group’s report outlines a set of 16 quality standards that describe high quality care in melanoma to which all healthcare providers can aspire, and 21 supporting recommendations. These statements and recommendations address the quality of care at each point of the pathway, from first presentation to survivorship and end of life, including GP education, psychological support for patients and access to treatments.
Melanoma Incidence – “Biggest Projected Increase Of Any Form Of Cancer”
Melanoma incidence has risen sharply in recent decades. In 2011, Cancer Research UK reported that over the last 25 years, rates of melanoma in Britain had risen faster than any of the top 10 cancers, and this trend shows no sign of abating.[1]
Indeed, rates of incidence in melanoma have been forecast to rise by over 50 per cent by 2030 – the biggest projected increase of any form of cancer.[2] This projected rise is in part due to the existence of a generation of people who, in spite of improved awareness of sun safety, may be at a higher risk of developing melanoma in the future due to historic sun damage. When coupled with an ageing population, cancer services will need to adapt in order to meet the increasing demand.
Professor Sir Mike Richards CBE, National Cancer Director, said in his foreword to the report:
“The Government has set a stretching ambition to improve cancer survival rates by saving an additional 5,000 lives per year by 2014/15.  This cannot be achieved by focussing on the common cancers alone, and so I am very pleased to welcome this Taskforce report which makes recommendations which could help improve melanoma survival rates. We all recognise the importance of preventing melanoma and diagnosing it early, to have the best possible chance of treating it successfully.  But, as the report highlights, there are variations in outcomes which are likely to relate to variations in treatment.”
Siân James MP, Chair of the Melanoma Taskforce, said:
“I am delighted to announce the publication of Quality in Melanoma Care: a best practice pathway, which marks the latest authoritative publication from the Melanoma Taskforce. I believe that as the health service goes through this phase of organisational flux, it is imperative that we continue to push for the best possible care for melanoma patients to ensure that they can access the right care at the right time, irrespective of location. We hope that these recommendations will prove to be a valuable resource to the clinical commissioning community in providing this high quality care.”
Dr James Larkin, Chair of the Melanoma Pathway Expert Group and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“It has been a pleasure to work on this project and I am pleased that as a multi-disciplinary group we have been able to agree the key principles of high quality melanoma care. The road to consensus is not always straightforward, and the strength of this report is in its direct approach to the more challenging issues in melanoma care. Through rigorous and informed debate we have reached a consensus and that is why, as a group, we believe that this report represents an important evaluation of the melanoma pathway.”
  1. Cancer Research UK, CancerStats Key Facts: skin cancer (2012)
  2. British Journal of Cancer, Cancer incidence in the United Kingdom: projections to the year 2030 (2011) p.3

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