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Cancer Patient Bill of Rights launched in Europe

Bill tackles discrepancies in care between countries

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 05 February 2014

The European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights has been unveiled this week to address the differences in care received by cancer patients across Europe.

Some 1,000 medical organisations and cancer groups from 17 European countries collaborated to produce the Bill which was launched yesterday (World Cancer Day) in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

In 2012, around 3.45 million people were diagnosed with cancer in Europe. The same year saw 1.75 million cancer deaths, representing three deaths every minute from the disease.

Cancer has now replaced cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of premature death in 28 of the 53 European countries.

Predictions suggest an ageing population means one person will die from cancer every 10 seconds, unless effective prevention and treatment strategies are implemented.

Three key principles – or Articles – emerged as part of the bill:

Article 1 refers to the right of every European citizen to receive the most accurate information and to be proactively involved in his/her care.

Article 2 states every European citizen should have the right to "optimal and timely access to appropriate specialised care, underpinned by research and innovation".

Finally, Article 3 concerns a patient's right to be given care within a system ensuring "improved outcomes, patient rehabilitation, best quality of life and affordable healthcare”.

Commenting, Sara Osborne, Cancer Research UK’s head of policy, said: "The launch of the European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights is an important call to action to guarantee that the quality of care and treatment a patient receives isn’t determined by where they live or how much they earn.

“Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer, and it is essential that every patient and every family receives the best possible chance to beat this disease.”

She added: "A renewed effort is needed to ensure that cancer is diagnosed earlier and that all patients have access to the best treatments."

Professor Patrick Johnston, ECC co-chair and dean of medicine, dentistry and biomedical sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, said: "This increasing cancer burden will impact not only on patients and their families, but will also be a significant issue for healthcare systems and for the future economic competitiveness of Europe."

The European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights comes the same week that a UK hospital trust (West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust) admitted some 800 plus patients suspected of cancer may have had their diagnosis delayed due to an administrative error. At least two patients may have died as a result of failing to receive follow-up appointments.

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