Pancreatic Cancer Action: A driving force in Scotland’s Cancer Recovery Plan

There are two ways to improve pancreatic cancer care; research driven evolution of new treatments which may take 10-20 years, or improving today’s delivery of existing treatments.

Ross Carter
Co-founder of PCS, PCA Trustee, retired pancreatic cancer surgeon who is leading the delivery of the pancreatic programme

Despite the best efforts of the Regional pancreatic teams, significant variation exists in patients’ experiences of pancreatic cancer. Surveys consistently report the time taken to complete the staging process and the lack of communication and information available as being two of the biggest challenges patients and carers face. As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government has responded to the negative effects the pandemic has had on cancer management, by publishing Recovery and Redesign: An Action Plan for Cancer Services and supporting initiatives with some additional funding.

The Scottish Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Network (SHPBN) were successful in securing £653k which will help to streamline and shorten the staging phase and simultaneously enhance patient care, support and communication.

Four members of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland Development Committee (SDC) hold key roles in the proposals implementation committee. Ms Fiona Brown, PCAS Development Manager, and Ms Lynda Murray, a political lobbyist and member of the SDC, co-chair the Patient, Carer and Charities sub-group. Along with Ms Elspeth Cowan, a Senior Pancreatic Clinical Nurse Specialist and PCA Trustee, they are focussed on developing “Early Holistic Care”, which is the ideal early management of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The SHPBN proposal will target patients with both liver and pancreatic cancer and I will lead delivery of the pancreatic programme.

The pancreatic proposal involves rapid notification of any suspicious scan result to a Central Office who then coordinate the investigation process and ensure there is effective communication with the patients and their loved ones.

The proposal will see early review of the scans by an experienced pancreatic surgeon, who will triage the patients into agreed investigation protocols as determined by the treatment options. The Office will then communicate with the patients local Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), who will be their “single point of contact”, and a wider patient specific communication “bubble” including their GP, and local and regional hospital teams, to arrange the required investigations to be performed in parallel rather than one after the other.

The Clinical Nurse Specialist will act as the hub of information for patients and start the delivery of “Early Holistic Care” to ensure the patients psychological, symptomatic, pharmacological and nutritional needs are addressed. On completion of the staging protocol, treatment will be determined by the regional Pancreatic Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting and the findings discussed amongst the patients communication “bubble,” to ensure consistent information is available to all.

An audit process will identify delays in investigation, measure improvement and highlight problem areas.

It is anticipated that the proposal will shorten the investigation period by 50%.

The recruitment of the Care Co-ordinators is now complete and the 2-year pilot project will commence in April 2022. A retrospective audit will be undertaken initially, with regular audit cycles in collaboration with clinical teams, patients, carers and charities to facilitate continuous improvement and understanding of patient experiences.

We look forward to continuing to support this pioneering project in Scotland and extend our thanks to everyone involved in driving it forward.

TOGETHER we can make a difference, helping ensure that the 2020’s is The Decade of Change for pancreatic cancer.