Published: 10/01/2001, Volume 112, No. 5787 Page 23

The Commission for Health Improvement and Audit Commission's report, NHS Cancer Care In England And Wales (news focus, pages 12-13, 13 December 2001), gives a welcome insight into the service user's perspective on cancer care.

Health professionals' commitment is rightly commended, but too often communication between the professionals involved in a person's care is lacking. Many patients do not receive joinedup care, with GPs often not informed of their progress, and a lack of clarity about who is in charge at various stages of treatment. This, and the lack of fair access to specialist nurses, can leave patients unsupported.

Appointing 300 primary care cancer lead clinicians, through a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Relief and the Department of Health, will play a key part in addressing this problem. The leads - who include nurses as well as GPs - have a clear remit to raise the standards of cancer care, working practically to identify gaps in services within their primary care organisations and the cancer networks.

The patients' voice must be heard at strategic levels in the NHS, to ensure patient and carer representatives can influence future services. This is why Macmillan is working with the DoH and service users to ensure user representative groups are in place in every cancer network.

We need to value professional expertise and personal experience of cancer equally, to deliver medical care that best meets patients' needs and the information and emotional support that can help them to feel in control of their life.

Peter Cardy Chief executive Macmillan Cancer Relief London SE1