Scottish-wide cancer plan introduced after NHS Tayside deaths

A consultant analyses a mammogram, looking for signs of breast cancer
A consultant analyses a mammogram, looking for signs of breast cancer
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A national approach to treating cancer is being introduced in the wake of revelations some patients received a lower dosage of chemotherapy drugs than in other parts of Scotland.

A new "Once for Scotland" approach is to be brought in as part of a bid to encourage rapid sharing and adoption of best practice across regional cancer networks and NHS boards.

Scotland's top doctor, Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood, said the move would "help ensure that cancer patients across Scotland have access to the same high level of care and treatment, regardless of where they live".

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The new approach is one of 19 recommendations being adopted by the Scottish Government after it emerged breast cancer patients in NHS Tayside were given smaller doses of some drugs.

A report had found the decision to reduce chemotherapy doses for NHS Tayside breast cancer patients lacked "challenge or consultation".

NHS Tayside lowered dosages to 304 patients, 14 of whom later died, from December 2016 to reduce side effects.

The health board has since changed its treatment regimes so they are now in line with the rest of Scotland.

An independent group was set up to examine the situation, with it now making recommendations to ensure similar practices do not emerge in the future.

The report said: "Scotland is a small country, with ambition to deliver high quality healthcare for all.

"Patients across Scotland should have access to the same high level of care and treatment, regardless of where they live. Crucially, they must also have the same level of involvement in decision-making about their care."

It added: "The 19 recommendations made in this report, if adopted, will significantly improve cancer care across NHS Scotland by embedding a 'Once for Scotland' approach and facilitating the rapid sharing and adoption of best practice across regional cancer networks and their constituent NHS boards."

Recommendations include setting up a new, longer life group to ensure all the suggested changes are made.

In addition to this, a national clinical management guidelines oversight group will be set up to develop and monitor the use of cancer clinical management guidelines and "ensure consistency across NHS Scotland".

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This group will hold an annual conference as part of work to establish the "Once for Scotland" approach to cancer care.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has welcomed the recommendations, Dr Calderwood said, with the Scottish Government confirming it will accept all 19 suggestions.

The Chief Medical Officer said: "Delivering on recommendations on informed patient consent is essential so that all cancer patients have the same high level of informed involvement in decision making about their care.

"One of the first actions will be to establish an implementation group for these recommendations and I am pleased to announce that this will be led by Dr Hilary Dobson OBE."

NHS Tayside medical director Professor Peter Stonebridge said: "Following concerns raised about variations in treatment in Tayside earlier this year, I can reassure patients that the same chemotherapy dosage regimes are being offered to patients in Tayside as in the rest of Scotland and all patients are fully informed about the options available to them. We continue to offer support to patients and families affected.

"Today's report sets out clear recommendations for cancer networks and teams across Scotland, and we welcome the recommended new approach which will allow cancer networks across the country to work more closely together."