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Priority areas for improvement in children’s cancer services identified

Priority areas for improvement in children’s cancer services identified
By Health reporter
13 November 2023

Parents, carers and children gave positive ratings of their overall cancer care but highlighted communication and care coordination as areas which can be improved, in a survey from charity Picker for NHS England.

The results, which can be compared to last yeas’, will be used to help commissioners, health care providers, charities and national policymakers identify priority areas for improvement in children’s cancer care services.

Three out of four children (75%) said that they were looked after very well by healthcare staff, and 89% of parents or carers rated the over experience of their child’s care as 8 or more out of 10.

The survey, which was conducted between April and June 2023, found that 91% of parents or carers said that they and their child were always treated with respect and dignity, and 83% always had confidence and trust in staff caring for their child.

Clear communication with patients and their families is central to a positive patient experience and aligns to one of the eight Picker Principles of person centred care. Communication is particularly important when dealing with children and families facing such a diagnosis.

Almost three quarters of children (71%) felt that staff always talked to them, not just their parent or carer, and 69% of children reported that they could always understand what staff were saying. A further 87% of parents or carers reported that they definitely had the chance to ask staff questions about their child’s care and treatment.

In relation to care coordination, 62% of parents or carers felt that different hospital staff always worked well together, and 57% of children reported always or mostly seeing the same members of staff for their treatment and care.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Amy Tallett, Head of Research at Picker, said: ‘The feedback should be used to support the delivery of high-quality person-centred care, and we really value the time that children and their parents or carers have taken to respond to the survey.

‘Although overall care is generally rated well, there is room for improvement in some aspects of care including communication and care coordination.

‘For the first time this year, Principal Treatment Centres can compare their findings to last year’s survey to understand how children’s cancer care experiences have changed over time. This will help them monitor the impact of any improvement initiatives since last year. It is vital that providers use the results and work with children, parents, and carers to improve cancer care provision as well as to identify where they are performing well.

Picker will soon be running workshops to facilitate understanding of the data and to provide an opportunity for health professionals to share learnings and inspiration for service improvements.’

This is the third survey conducted by the NHS that collates feedback from children and young people about their experiences of cancer and tumour care. 

 The Under 16 Cancer Patient Experience Survey (U16 CPES), was sent to parents and carers of children and young people aged under 16 who received care at one of England’s 13 NHS Principal Treatment Centres (PTCs) during 2022. 

Parents or carers were asked to give feedback about their child’s care, and children over 8 were invited to give their own views as well. In total 885 responses were collected, representing a 25% response rate.

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