Scottish hospitals ignore cancer guidance

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The Independent Online
A NUMBER of the hospital trusts in Scotland which treat women suffering from ovarian cancer are not following guidance which could save lives, a report published today reveals.

An independent Accounts Commission study of the 26 hospital trusts which treat women suffering from the form of cancer known as "the silent killer", reveals that less than one-third of hospital trusts are following key guidelines on the care of patients.

Its authors describe survival rates of ovarian cancer in Scotland as "poor", with only 29 per cent of women surviving five years after the disease is diagnosed, compared with 38 per cent in Switzerland and 36 per cent in Finland.

They find that there is "considerable variation" across Scotland in the extent to which guidelines, aimed at improving survival prospects, are implemented.

And they say the NHS in Scotland needs to "make more progress" in implementing the recommendations.

The guidelines, which exist only for the NHS in Scotland, include recommendations on referral, surgery, post-surgical care and chemotherapy treatment for women patients.

The Accounts Commission survey shows that only nine health trusts, out of the 26 that treat ovarian cancer, have put into place the recommendation that when ovarian cancer is suspected, patients should be referred instantly to a "specialist gynaecologist".

And only 16 have implemented the guideline recommendation that after surgery patients should be referred to a combined gynaecology and oncology unit, where they will be cared for by a team of experts.

Caroline Gardner, director of health studies at the Accounts Commission, said that at this stage the hospital trusts which appeared not to be providing the highest level of care would not be "named and shamed" but had been informed of where they were falling down, and had been given an action plan for improvement. If improvement does not follow, she said the commission "may consider" naming those at fault.

Over 500 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year in Scotland. It is known as "the silent killer" because it produces vague symptoms such as abdominal pain and swelling and can go undetected for a long time.