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2. Context

A number of recent developments have highlighted the importance of improving the patient experience of cancer services within the area of information, liaison and support.

The Integrated Cancer Care Programme Report(3)  identified the lack of patient information, integration and communication across services, the variability of specialist support available for patients and the desire from General Practitioners (GPs) for more information about treatment plans, courses of treatment and response to treatment for their patients.

The recently published Cancer Reform Strategy(2) highlights that more must be done to support and empower patients throughout their cancer journey. The report highlights the importance that commissioners must place upon developing robust systems to ensure patients have good continuity of care and timely information and support across the pathway for the patient with cancer. 

One way to achieve this is to ensure that co-ordination of all these elements of information, support and liaison is led strategically by an expert lead practitioner who will develop strategies across all sectors in order to ensure integration of care by those delivering all aspects of the cancer pathway. This is particularly important in the current climate of more complexity across and between pathways of care. New service models are also being advocated, to improve both the access for patients and to improve treatment outcomes for patients.

It is inevitable that some services will be more readily accessible to patients and located closer to where they live whereas other more specialist services will continue to be delivered at specialist centres(4).This may mean that many patients will have to access different treatments across their treatment pathway at differing geographical locations which will be determined by their particular treatment pathway. To continue to deliver and develop high quality services across changing service models, considerable work has been undertaken by the Department of Health (England) in developing a commissioning framework for radiotherapy services(5). High quality care and information and support are essential components of this framework.

The Cancer Reform Strategy acknowledges that although the patient’s experience of care has improved in recent years, more can be done to support and more must be done to empower patients through their cancer journey. To achieve this we need expert co-ordinated care led by an expert.  With the rapid growth of radiotherapy services as a result of the recommendations for service expansion outlined in the Cancer Reform Strategy(2) there will be an increase in new satellite centres providing treatment closer to patients’ homes. Establishing standards across and maintaining links between new and existing centres across Cancer Networks will require co-ordination across all aspects of care; Information and support service co-ordination is a critical part of this care.

To fulfil the educational requirements of this role, SCoR has advocated the need for accreditation of higher level skills at post registration level. Accredited post registration programmes must be agreed and developed locally to support the development of this high level role and in line with the key outcomes described within the SCoR Learning and Development Framework(6). The need to achieve consistency of practice and to support transferability of expert roles between employers has been underlined further by the College of Radiographers, which is developing accreditation processes for higher levels of practice.

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