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Election 2011, Guest Blogs, Health, Politics

Guest blog: Helen Mary Jones of Plaid Cymru

We will be running guest blogs from the four political parties over the next few days in the run-up to the Assembly Elections. We begin with Helen Mary Jones of Plaid Cymru, who writes about Plaid’s cancer strategy.

Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru

By Helen Mary Jones

The scale of the health challenge we face as a nation is clear. Chronic diseases have become a feature of Welsh communities: obesity, heart disease and cancer are all too common. With the mounting cost of chronic ill health and the age wave about to hit us hard, the current approach to cancer is no longer sustainable. More people are being diagnosed with cancer which places increasing pressure on services across the entire cancer pathway from diagnosis, throughout treatment, beyond treatment and end of life.

One of the key planks of Plaid Cymru’s health proposals for the Welsh general election in May is our cancer strategy which aims to focus on treating the person as well as the disease.

Our ambition for Wales is a health system that focuses on improving patient care.  We aim to take a collaborative approach bringing together a panel of experts from across the NHS and the third sector, as well as people affected by cancer themselves to develop the strategy and monitor its implementation.

There are several key commitments to our national cancer plan:

  • A commitment to treat the person as well as the disease with a programme that treats cancer as a long term condition.
  • Providing all cancer patients with a specialist cancer nurse.
  • Collaboration with local authorities and service providers to ensure cancer patients get the social care and benefits they need.
  • The introduction of co-production into cancer services – where patients and health professionals work together in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • Free access to patients to their medical records.

Plaid believes that Wales has an opportunity to change the way we deliver cancer services to focus on lifelong wellbeing and prevention, to promote a holistic model of health, treating the whole person, body and mind. Cancer is a disease that affects us all in some way. It is vital that the services we have in place for cancer patients meet all their needs. We believe that a long-term strategy is vital to making sure advances continue to be made and that patients benefit from new and more effective research, treatments and support services.

Plaid wants to introduce a cross-government approach to cancer services in Wales that encourages the health service, social service and voluntary sector organisations to work together to design and deliver world class cancer services. Our national plan for cancer services will not only aim to reduce cancer rates and to improve survival, but will also aim to ensure that people live healthy productive lives beyond the diagnosis of cancer and are supported in their choices.

Plaid’s new Cancer Plan will:

  • Improve prevention of cancer through public health initiatives;
  • Prioritise early diagnosis;
  • Ensure access to world class clinical care, regardless of location;
  • Invest in community based support;
  • Develop a programme that looks at cancer as a long-term condition.

We need to make sure people in Wales have the best possible chance of surviving cancer and this means offering the best possible clinical care. But we also need to help people to take control of their own health as far as possible so that they can lead healthy and productive lives as long as possible. This means not just focusing on hospitals, but also helping them to stay out of hospital by supporting them to become more knowledgeable, engaged and proactive in relation to their own health and wellbeing.

Crucially, Plaid will ensure any new plan must have a strong emphasis on delivery, implementation and monitoring patient satisfaction.  Standards, actions and objectives will be managed and monitored; there have been issues in respect of effective implementation in Wales.

A national plan for cancer services is needed because, according to patient groups and cancer charities, patients aren’t getting the support they need. Local Health Boards, Cancer Networks, Social Services and people working in cancer in Walesdon’t have a single national cancer plan that provides them with clarity and direction on cancer services. When I launched the plan on world cancer day at Breast Cancer Care I was really pleased with the positive feedback that it received.  With cancer prevalence likely to double over the next two decades giving direction on this issue is crucial.   

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