Gold Standard of Care
The Throat Cancer Foundation is an advocate for a 'Gold Standard of Care' for patients suffering from throat cancer. Every hospital and medical team will work to their strengths and with their resources which means treatment may vary from centre to centre.
We are working with the medical community to establish best practice for treatment and also empowering patients to become involved in the decision making around their treatment and care. Our site is full of information on types of cancer, types of treatment, FAQ’s and questions you can ask the medical team to help understand treatment, expected outcomes, side effects and long term recovery.
The purpose of this website is to provide a comprehensive resource for people world-wide who are facing a cancer diagnosis; however, as we are a UK based charity, this section is designed to help patients understand their rights when they enter in the care of the National Health Service (NHS) .
We have met with many NHS staff nationally and have been extremely encouraged by the caring and knowledgeable people who work within our health service. This does not mean things are perfect and everyone will have a different experience and expectation of service.
A primary aim of Throat Cancer Foundation is to make people aware of their rights within the NHS. The first point to make is that although you will not usually receive a bill after treatment, the NHS is not free. The NHS is heavily funded through taxation and as such you should expect the same high standards of service as you would from anything you have purchased.
Secondly, it is important to remember that the NHS is devolved in the UK and is made up of several different organisations which administer different countries within the United Kingdom: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This means there may be differences for example, in medicines used, treatment offered and other things. Each authority has a different website, so for more information on your local services please click for England,Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
KEY POINTS ABOUT THE NHS
- You have the right to a second opinion
This means you can ask to have another doctor examine you and offer their opinion on what course of treatment is best for you. This does not mean you are being rude to your Doctor or medical team but rather it can be valuable to ask another expert their opinion - but only if YOU feel this is right for you. Cancers of the head and neck are complex and there may be different options for treatment.
- You have the right of referral
This means that you have the right to ask for referral to a different hospital for a different treatment regime, or for additional support e.g. a dietitian or a speech and language therapist.. This can be particularly important when it comes to treatment for head and neck cancers - it is very important to discuss all your treatment options with your medical team to ensure the most appropriate treatment.
- You have the right to complain
Hopefully this is a right you will not have to exercise, however it is important that you raise any complaints you may have about your level of care. Not only will raising any issues hopefully get them resolved but will also help future patients. Each hospital or service (for example a GP Surgery) will have a complaints procedure, ask for a copy of the complaints procedure.
- You have the right to refuse treatment
All medical procedures require your consent and unless you are deemed incapable of making this decision, you will have the right to not be treated. This includes if non-treatment could result in death. As a rule, medics will not start treatment if they believe that it will be more damaging than beneficial so again, hopefully it is not a right that you will not need to exercise.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?
The quality of life issues after treatment for head and neck cancers are numerous and this is an area which the Throat Cancer Foundation are committed to improving. The treatment for a head or neck cancer can leave long lasting side-effects. This can affect people’s speech, their ability to swallow and eat, their appearance, not to mention the effect on people’s mental health. These are things which if you are well, you take for granted and when they are removed can affect your quality of life profoundly.
Head and neck cancers are on the rise amongst younger patients and it universally acknowledged that is due to the HPV virus. While this rise is not welcome, the good news is that HPV positive cancer has a better prognosis than non-HPV positive cancer. This is a general rule and each patient should discuss their outcomes with their medical team.
Patients undergoing treatment are beating cancer and living much longer which is excellent new. It is important to recognise however, that the side effects of treatment can be life altering and debilitating - affecting the quality of life for years and in some cases,permanently.
This is why we want all patients to receive a 'Gold Standard of Care', in other words, the most effective treatment which causes the least debilitating side effects. We want all patients to have access to:
The most advanced and appropriate surgical options which limit side effects and reduce recovery time.
The most effective radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. This means the most precise and least damaging radiotherapy treatment. The neck and throat contain dozens of muscles which enable us to speak, swallow, eat and drink. Radiotherapy in this area can damage these muscles,, so the continuing developments in technology around treatment are very important.
Follow up care that will speed up recovery and ensure the best quality of life: for example access to speech and language therapists to help with swallowing and speaking can be particularly important.
If there is anything that we have not covered on the site, then have a look at our Ask an Expert section where we will put any questions you have to our team of clinical and scientific advisers.
All information on this site is general and for information only - every patient will have a unique treatment journey and experiences will vary. By carefully discussing treatment options, outcomes and follow up care with your medical team, you should be able to ensure a gold standard is reached.
content updated 1/2/13 - next reviewed 1/8/13