Social care system is failing cancer patients

Inadequate social care for people living with cancer is resulting in costly and preventable admissions to hospital, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

People living with cancer, or the consequences of their treatment, often need help with emotional problems, side effects of treatment, getting back to work and paying the bills - but new research shows their needs are being ignored by the NHS and local authorities.

Jane Gammage, head of Lifecare at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The social care system is failing the 1.6 million people living with cancer in England and their carers. The perception is that people are either cured of cancer or they die.

"There is no recognition of the growing need for social care services from the moment someone is diagnosed, throughout treatment and beyond. With more and more people living longer with or beyond cancer today, cancer care must mean support for the whole person, and not just treatment for the disease.

“A lack of co-ordination between health and social care teams mean that in many areas, good social care services for cancer patients and their carers simply don’t exist and people are left to fend for themselves. Cancer must be considered as much as social care concern as it is a health priority, and we hope this is acknowledged in the Government’s Green Paper expected next month.”

New research by Macmillan found that many patients and carers are not referred to social care services for assessment and those who are often do not get services which are flexible and responsive enough to their specific needs.

Poor promotion of services and insufficient signposting by healthcare professionals to available support means patients often don’t know where to go for help and a lack of transparency around the current social care system is also leaving patients confused as to whether they qualify for help or not.

Friends and family are bearing the brunt for the lack of social care which has a knock on effect on their health and finances. The fact people are living longer with cancer means the situation is only going to get worse.

Macmillan wants the social care needs of people living with cancer and their carers to be better understood by commissioners, more money to be invested in new, more responsive services and more integration between Primary Care Trusts and local government when commissioning social care services.

To read Macmillan’s report, Do Social Care Services meet the needs of people affected by cancer? visit

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