Published on: Friday 12th October 2018

My name is Sean Duffy and I am the Clinical Lead for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance. As many of you will already know, cancer is one of the priority programmes for the Health and Care Partnership.

We see many advantages of being integrated with the HCP’s strategic leadership in a way that isn’t necessarily the case in all parts of the country. This includes the opportunity to ensure that our work around the treatment and impact of cancer does not take place in isolation, within its own ‘bubble’. Increasingly, we are operating both strategically and operationally as an integral part of the exciting developments in our health and care system here in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

With the growing numbers of people who are now living with and beyond cancer, it sits alongside the many other long-term conditions with which our ageing population will continue to live and with which our health and care system will need to grapple.

We discussed the value of this West Yorkshire and Harrogate approach with national charity colleagues when we hosted a visit by members of Cancer52, an alliance of nearly 100 organisations working to address inequalities and improve outcomes for patients with rare and less common cancers.

We were delighted to welcome individual members from Pancreatic Cancer UK, Target Ovarian Cancer, Myeloma UK, Sarcoma UK, Teenage Cancer Trust and Pseudomyxoma Survivor, along with Cancer52 Chief Executive Jane Lyons to our session in Leeds.

Less common cancers can be more difficult to diagnose than others, are more likely to be diagnosed later and there is therefore less chance of being able to offer curable treatment.

The group had expressed a particular interest in hearing about our work to speed up diagnosis through the use of a multidisciplinary diagnostic (MDC) approach for patients with non-specific symptoms indicative of several cancers – and potentially none - therefore with no clear referral pathway.

Dr Rob Turner and Dr Sarah Forbes from Leeds and Dr Helena Rolfe from Airedale came along to talk about their work on the WYH national pilots for the Accelerate, Co-ordinate, Evaluate (ACE) programme around MDCs, and the different models in each of the two areas. An interesting and lively discussion ensued, and thanks to Rob, Sarah and Helena for giving us their time.

Such discussions are mutually beneficial for a number of reasons. National charities spend much of their time campaigning and lobbying on behalf of their members with policy makers and influencers. It’s essential that their views are informed by what is happening on the ground, that they are aware of where innovation and development is taking place, and where the challenges exist.

In turn, the pivotal role of Cancer Alliances in ensuring the delivery of the national cancer strategy and our commitment here in WYH to wrapping cancer services around our patients means we must put the patient experience and voice at the heart of everything we do. For many people affected by cancer, it is the relevant charity that provides them with the help and support they need, and acts as a guide through their cancer journey alongside health and care professionals.

Working with charities – as well as those individual patients who give us their time and their support at local level – is a great way to keep us grounded and provides a touchstone for our priority setting and our activities. They can also help signpost us to new partnerships and opportunities for information exchange.

Cancer52 is just one of the national charities alongside which we are currently working.

In addition to providing the driving force behind the ACE programme, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan are significant partners from both a funding and partnership perspective – the former particularly in our Early Diagnosis workstream and the latter with a focus on Living With and Beyond Cancer. Both are represented on our Alliance Board and project groups.

We’ve been working with Breast Cancer Now to pilot across our acute Trusts our service pledge for breast cancer – which supports tailored service improvements for patients by bringing together staff and NHS patients to tackle the issues that matter most to them during their treatment. Evaluation shows improvements in the standard of care, speed of treatment once diagnosed, patient information and involvement. This is the first time that this evidence based approach to service improvement, led and driven by patients, has been successfully carried out across a whole population and healthcare system.

We’re now looking at opportunities for taking the learning and rolling this out further through the charity Prostate Cancer UK.

We are in discussions with Dr Jesme Fox and the team about how we might benefit from the experience of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in other parts of the country as we progress a lung health check programme, initially in Wakefield and Bradford.

Closer to home, at regional level, we are collaborating with Cancer Support Yorkshire on a Macmillan-funded pilot project to improve cancer patient access to personalisedpost treatment support in Bradford. Our partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research on a bursary scheme for reporting radiographers and clinical endoscopists has attracted significant interest.

Our colleagues in the Teenage Cancer Trust carry out invaluable work with young people whose lives are affected by cancer, both in hospital and community settings. I have personally endorsed their schools education programme and we are currently exploring with my colleagues Dan Stark, Consultant in Medical Oncology and TCT clinical researcher, and Nurse Consultant Sue Morgan, both based at the TCT’s Principal Treatment Centre in Leeds, how we might better work together for mutual benefit.

So lots happening, but lots more to do. We’ll keep you posted!


A few links that may be of interest if you want to know more….

  • A full list of Cancer 52 members is available here on their website.
  • Click here to visit the area of the website dedicated to how the charity is working with Cancer Alliances.
  • Click here for more information on the ACE programme and multidisciplinary diagnostic centres on the Cancer Research UK website.
  • More here about Teenage Cancer Trust’s educational programme.