How Improvement Cymru’s new integrated approach will support the improvement of cancer services in Wales

By Prof Tom Crosby OBE, Consultant Oncologist, National Cancer Clinical Director for Wales, Clinical Lead Transforming Cancer Services, Velindre Cancer Centre.

I was delighted to see the launch of Improvement Cymru’s new strategy and programme ‘Safe Care Together’. This marks a new chapter in how Improvement Cymru work with organisational improvement and innovation teams, together with national agencies such as the Wales Cancer Network to improve patient outcomes, patient safety and reduce the variation in the quality of care being delivered across Wales. 

We have a long track record of working constructively with the Improvement Cymru (and previously with 1000 Lives) team. They have been pivotal in supporting the national cancer improvement programme, the Single Cancer Pathway. I am delighted that they support the continued focus of this work which will focus on fewer pathways, and work with local teams, as well as the national programme to reduce variation and share best practice between multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). They are keen to enable the local MDTs to support their own improvement work and help bring them together to develop a sustainable community of practice (where appropriate) working locally and nationally on continuous service quality improvement.

We welcome the approach where they are keen that they embed this learning not just in specific disease areas but in a more integrated fashion, for example in diagnostics and the support of patients through and beyond treatment.

Never has the need to maintain quality and safety in the care we deliver for patients in Wales been more important. We are aware that the cancer workforce in Wales was already fragile, and that there were significant inequalities for public and patients in some parts of Wales in terms of access to care and outcomes. The pandemic has only added to the size of the demand and organisations are struggling to develop the capacity and safe pathways of care to meet this demand.

The Single Cancer Pathway is all about being clear about what a good pathway looks like for a patient, then measuring the activity and performance against this standard, understanding the causes of variation and working with clinical services to reduce this variation.  In other words, to ensure everyone has access to safe, effective and efficient care in the right place and at the right time delivered by the right team.

The Cancer Network and wider NHS Collaborative are really looking forward to working with Improvement Cymru in the coming months and years. We are working in challenging times, but these always provide opportunities to improve and innovate, and sometimes even transform the system we are working in, as the public and patients of Wales deserve.