Posted on Tuesday 31 January 2023

in News

Young Lives vs Cancer responds to the Wales Cancer Services Improvement Plan

Today (Tuesday 31st January), the Minister for Health and Social Care has announced the Cancer Services Improvement Plan for Wales for 2022-25. The Plan sets out to meet the objectives of the Welsh Government’s Quality Statement for Cancer Services, and bring objectives for improving cancer services into a single 3-year plan.

Improving early and rapid diagnosis, patient experience of cancer treatment, and pathways between cancer services and holistic forms of support are important priorities for improving outcomes for patients, and we welcome this much-needed clarity from the Welsh Government on its efforts to address the pressures on cancer services in Wales.

We appreciate the Plan acknowledges some of the bespoke needs and challenges that cancer in children and young people brings, including fertility and psychological support. However, we are concerned that Plan does not specifically identify the actions needed to address these unique needs. In Wales, as elsewhere, children, young people and their families facing cancer experience challenges distinct from adults, from diagnosis to post-treatment care, and it is essential that these needs are directly addressed. We call on the Welsh Government to acknowledge this and provide further clarity on how the Plan’s implementation will address the specific needs of young cancer patients.

We are also pleased to see a commitment to improving access to psychological services and community-based organisations, and hope this commitment will help children and young people access appropriate support at all stages of their cancer treatment.

As a Wales Cancer Alliance member, we echo calls for further clarity on the implementation of this Plan and the future strategic direction of Wales’ cancer services. We are glad that findings from the Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) are informing the Plan’s objectives and implementation. However, the CPES does not capture the experiences of children or all young people, who are often poorly represented or excluded from health data. We would welcome introduction of a CPES for under-16s (as in England), or similar experience capture, to ensure children and teenagers’ voices can be included in the same way in future cancer services planning.

In response to the Plan, Helen Gravestock, Director of Policy, Influencing and Voice at Young Lives vs Cancer, commented: 

“As elsewhere in the UK, Wales’ cancer services have faced unprecedented challenges over the last three years, and continue to navigate through difficult circumstances. This plan represents a step in the right direction on improving cancer services in Wales, but more action is needed to provide children and young people with cancer, and those close to them, with the commitment and clarity they deserve to improving the services they access.

“Each year in Wales, around 200 children and young people receive a life-changing cancer diagnosis, and face huge emotional, physical and financial challenges that deserve to be listened to and represented in all efforts to improve cancer services.

“Young Lives vs Cancer is ready to be a constructive partner to the Welsh Government, the Wales Cancer Alliance and others in ensuring that children, young people and families facing cancer in Wales are listened to and meaningfully included in the improvement of Wales’ cancer services.”

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