Phil McNamaraWelcome to the first blog for the Surrey & Sussex Cancer Alliance.  My name is Phil McNamara, and I’m the Programme Director for the cancer workstream within Surrey Heartlands. 

The Alliance spans both Surrey and Sussex, sits across three Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (Frimley Health, Surrey Heartlands, and Sussex & East Surrey) and contains eight NHS cancer providers (two cancer centres and six cancer units).

 In terms of our objectives for the Alliance, we are aiming to improve and transform services and outcomes for cancer patients.  To achieve this, we will be focusing on earlier diagnosis of cancer – looking at specific initiatives and transformations that will increase the numbers of people diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 of their disease.  We also aim to do more to help patients after their diagnosis of cancer, to ‘live with and beyond’ the disease and to better help provide the physical and social support they will need.

I would like to thank those members of the Surrey Heartlands Stakeholder Reference Group who came to the meeting in October for their interest in our work and the valuable contributions of ideas and opinions that emerged from the table discussions.

Many people focused on screening with support for greater access sooner. Improved communications with all age groups through a variety of means was another area of interest among stakeholders – ranging from more support helplines to advice in schools on smoking cessation.

We started this financial year setting out our delivery plan for the Alliance, and linking this to the Five Year Forward View and the independent Cancer Taskforce Report.  In recent months, the Alliance received its core NHSE funding, which enabled us to really start our workstreams and governance processes in earnest.

We are establishing 4 clinically-led workstreams to shape and lead our work in key areas:

These will link to other existing Surrey Heartlands programmes, and will lead many of our efforts around topics such as cancer screening, rapid diagnostics, surgery, radiotherapy and wellbeing for cancer patients.  We’ve taken part in recent Clinical Academy, Investment Framework and Stakeholder Engagement events within the STP which has given us great access to our Surrey Heartlands colleagues but importantly allowed us to align our work with other workstreams such as Prevention and Mental Health.

The workstreams also align to 5 High Priority Pathway Groups that focus on a sub-set of cancer tumour groups – again these are clinically-led with programme management office (PMO) support on a day-to-day basis.

These have been carefully chosen – based on the national cancer programme requirements – but also include high-volume specialities such as Prostate (Urology) where we know we can achieve service improvements that will not only positively impact on cancer patients but help our providers deliver value for money and more sustainable services in general.  We can also bring national cancer clinical guidance into play, and support commissioners and providers to modernise and streamline pathways, all the while being mindful of the impact on primary care and services further down-stream later in these cancer pathways.

We’ve set ourselves an ambition to be an evidence and data driven Alliance, and we are in the early stages of commencing analytics around diagnostics and radiotherapy that will shape the future of rapid diagnosis of cancer and ultimately the treatment of those cancers where radiotherapy is part of the overall treatment package.  A national Cancer Dashboard is anticipated in early 2018, which again will become part of our data suite and help Surrey Heartlands understand and track improvements in cancer and to identify areas for future transformation.

In coming weeks our delivery programme will be firmly established and projects commencing that will help shape cancer services within Surrey Heartlands.  Working across 3 STPs affords us a unique opportunity to pilot and evaluate our initiatives across Surrey and Sussex, and to help our partner STPs develop through learning shared by Surrey Heartlands.  Our main aim in all this, of course, is to provide better support and services to cancer patients and to positively influence life-choices of others to prevent cancer, or to enable rapid diagnosis leading to an improved outcome overall.