One year on, fast action on cancer has never been more important
With one in two people in the UK expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, improving cancer survival rates remains high on the Government agenda. UK survival rates have improved since 2000, with five-year survival rate increasing from 42% to 53%. However the findings of the recent All.Can report suggest that more can be done as four out of 10 people with cancer in the UK are misdiagnosed at least once.
We believe providing speed of access to diagnosis and treatment is key to improving survival rates which is why, a year ago, we launched Cancer Direct Access – the UK’s most comprehensive telephone self-referral service. It allows people who believe they may have cancer symptoms to book an appointment with a specialist consultant without needing a GP referral, reducing the time between detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Research shows that, if bowel cancer is diagnosed early (stage one), more than 90 percent of people will survive for five years or more after they're diagnosed; but the survival rate drops to less than 10 percent if it’s not diagnosed until the latest stage. A quicker diagnosis can also reduce the need for the most complex and invasive surgery, which potentially reduces recovery times.
Many businesses across the UK want to provide their people with support, providing access to high-quality medical care and treatment when they need it. We partner with large and small businesses and, looking at our claims history for employer-funded policies, customers frequently claim for cancers such as breast, bowel, prostate and skin. We know that the diagnosis and treatment of many is often delayed as people struggle to find time to book a GP appointment or don’t want to waste their GP’s time, preferring to self-diagnose their symptoms online.
It is clear that there is strong demand for a quicker and more convenient way of seeking medical advice as our Direct Access team have spoken to thousands of customers in the 12 months since the service launched.
Waiting to find out whether symptoms are cancerous can be very stressful. Our self-referral service offers employees certainty. For some, it offers peace of mind and reassurance that symptoms are not cancer. For the 69 percent of customers who have gone on to see a consultant, it offers them quick access to the appropriate medical support and treatment for their diagnosis.
For decades we have led the conversation on cancer care, working hard to support people throughout their journey, by providing on-going support from our cancer nurses and advisers who develop individual action plans, including lifestyle advice to support secondary prevention and staying healthy. Our Cancer Promise complements this approach, giving customers with cancer cover certainty that they can access all the eligible treatment and drugs whenever they need it.
In our experience many people find work can help them to maintain a semblance of normality following a cancer diagnosis, but they need support to adjust, and remain or return to the workplace. Many of the businesses we work with use early occupational health advice to implement flexible working strategies so employees feel empowered to attend their appointments, treatments sessions or recuperate after treatment.
We recognise that poor or impaired physical health can have a negative impact on someone’s mental health which is why, as part of our Cancer Survivorship programme, we provide customers with access to psychologists, counsellors and nurses who provide emotional and wellbeing support. We believe that offering a holistic approach to cancer care can help businesses create a more resilient workforce where their employees feel able to thrive.
About Alex Perry
Alex is CEO of Bupa Insurance Ltd, and the General Manager of UK Insurance. He joined Bupa in 2008, leading the Clinics business, and has also been the Director of Health and Benefits Management for the UK Health Insurance business, where he was responsible for the healthcare that our customers receive. He was previously a Principal at Marakon Associates, the strategic advisory firm, and before that held a number of commercial roles at First Choice Holidays.