The lives of lung cancer patients are being put at risk by a shortage of specialists and outdated views on possible outcomes, a report warns.

Just 70 specialist thoracic surgeons serve the 200-plus lung cancer multidisciplinary teams (LCMDTs) across the country, the UK Lung Cancer Coalition said, and specialist lung cancer nurses are also overstretched.

The coalition warned that some oncologists are not familiar with the latest lung cancer management practices, while a “pessimistic and outdated” view of potential outcomes for patients was still apparent among some healthcare professionals.

The report sets out 30 “aspirational” recommendations for LCMDTs, and comes after a nationwide consultation among medical and clinical oncologists, GPs, cancer nurse specialists, surgeons, radiologists, respiratory physicians and palliative care workers.

Among the suggestions are calls for all patients to have access to a lung cancer specialist nurse, all cancer teams to have a thoracic surgeon as a core member, and for GPs and hospitals to work more closely together.

Coalition chairman Richard Steyn said he wants all lung cancer patients to have their cases managed by fully equipped LCMDTs, adding that “closer, and more effective, working across clinical specialties is vital”.

“Multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) have been at the heart of delivering improved care for many cancers,” the report states.

“However, in the UK there are insufficient specialists to service effectively the large number of lung cancer MDTs, of which there are currently well over 200.”

In 2011, lung cancer was the second biggest killer of men, accounting for 16,881 deaths. It was the fifth leading cause of death in women, accounting for 13,267 deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer. We want to make sure that our cancer services are world class and that NHS patients receive the best treatment available - if England’s lung cancer survival rates were as good as the best in Europe, we could save 1,300 additional lives per year.

“Multidisciplinary teams remain the cornerstone of cancer treatment and should have the right staff to provide high quality diagnosis, treatment and care for lung cancer patients.”

 

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