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Bowel cancer patients 'need choice', says report


Hospitals that fail to offer bowel cancer patients a full range of appropriate treatments should be fined, a charity has said.

Beating Bowel Cancer said at least 1,800 patients every year are denied a choice of treatment despite the fact several should always be available.

It looked at data from the Cancer Patient Experience Survey run by the Department of Health which found 18% of bowel cancer patients were not given a choice of treatment.

The charity said it did not believe there is ever a point where there is only one choice of treatment available.

Its report - Equity and Excellence for Bowel Cancer - comes as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) published final guidance to the NHS rejecting three bowel cancer drugs on the NHS.

It said cetuximab (Erbitux), bevacizumab (Avastin), and panitumumab (Vectibix) should not be prescribed for advanced bowel cancer.

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “This is yet another blow for bowel cancer patients just as we are calling on the Government to fine hospitals that do not offer a choice of treatments.

“Each year at least 1,800 bowel cancer patients are denied a choice of the best treatments available to them.

“All bowel cancer patients deserve the best care and that is why where choice is not offered we believe quality payments should be withheld.

“Our recommendation could actually make savings for the NHS and will mean better treatment now and in the future, enabling patients to survive and beat bowel cancer.”

Treatments can include diagnostic tests; surgical options including laparoscopy; care of stomas, which are artificial openings in the abdomen to collect waste and a choice of clinically appropriate drugs, either on the NHS or through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The fund was set up to pay for drugs not approved by Nice but where doctors thought they were appropriate for the patient.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said no patient should be denied a choice of treatment that is clinically appropriate.

“Patients have the right to be involved in decisions about their care that is why we have said that a guiding principle of the NHS is 'no decision about me without me' in the delivery of all treatment,” he added.

“Patient decision support aids for bowel cancer patients are one way of helping patients make better decisions, with their doctor, about their care and treatment and we would urge patients to discuss these with their clinicians to make sure they choose the best treatment option for them.”