Macmillan Wales has welcomed a Welsh Government plan for health and social care, but warns the immediate challenges facing cancer care services should not be overlooked.
‘A Healthier Wales: our plan for health and social care’ outlines the Welsh Government’s response to the significant challenges facing health and social care services, both now and in the future.
The plan outlines a vision of a ‘seamless’ health and social care system, one that is based on moving the focus away from hospital based care to health, well-being and prevention within local communities.
Responding to the plan, Richard Pugh, Head of Services for Macmillan in Wales, said:
“Anyone involved in health and social care knows that times are tough, and that things are only going to get more challenging in the future.
“Increased demand and reduced budgets have combined to place huge pressure right across Wales’ health and social care systems, and there can be no doubt that in places these vital support and care systems are creaking.
“Any plan designed to address this by bringing health and social care into one seamless system must be welcomed, but we must not underestimate just how big a challenge this will be.
“While the gap between where we are now and where this plan wants us to be is certainly substantial it is not insurmountable, but we do need to ensure the tight timescales for improvement do not negatively impact on current service delivery.
“It is heartening to see that the new plan places a clear emphasis on earlier diagnosis and intervention, something Macmillan has championed for people with cancer in Wales for a number of years.
“What is encouraging is the fact the plan also focusses on people’s wider long-term well-being.
“We know that people with cancer face a wide range of issues – not just in terms of their clinical care, but also financial, emotional and spiritual challenges, all of which impact on their well-being.
“By 2030 we expect around 250,000 people to be living with cancer in Wales, and that in the near future one-in-two of us can expect to receive a cancer diagnosis.
“That is why we have campaigned for many years for a more holistic health and social care approach, and why we continue to call for everyone with cancer to receive an holistic needs assessment so that health care teams are more aware of the wider issues that may be impacting on their patients’ well-being.
“There are gaps that desperately need to be filled – we know that far too many people face delays in their treatment, that too many are needlessly admitted into hospital care at the end of life, that 52% of people with cancer are not receiving financial advice or support, and that 39% are not being fully told about the potential long-term side effects of their treatment. We also know that health inequalities like deprivation continue to impact negatively on a person’s chances of survival.
“This plan has huge potential to address these gaps, and to improve services for people with cancer across Wales. If delivered properly we could see a system in which people are diagnosed earlier, treated sooner, and receive ‘seamless’ long-term support from primary, secondary and community based services.
“Charities have a huge role to play in delivering this vision and Macmillan Wales is firmly committed to working with our health board, local government and Welsh Government partners on delivering the transformative change that is needed.
“But we must also not lose sight of the present. We will continue to campaign for and to invest in better cancer care services to try and support everyone diagnosed with cancer in Wales.”