March 24, 2014

Call for lung cancer patients to get a fair go

Lung Foundation Australia is calling on the Federal Government to help fix the critical lack of lung cancer specialist nurses, which is short-changing the options for Australian lung cancer patients.

Lung Foundation Australia’s Director – Lung Cancer National Program, Glenda Colburn said other cancer groups within Australia had access to specialist nurses and it was time lung cancer patients received the same level of care.

“With more than 11,000 new cases each year, lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in Australia and the fourth most commonly diagnosed form of cancer,” Ms Colburn said.

“More than 20 people die from lung cancer each and every day – that’s more than breast, ovarian and prostate cancers combined,” she said.

Ms Colburn said Lung Foundation Australia is urging the government to commit $12.6 million to a pilot lung cancer nurses program as part of the 2014-15 Federal budget.

The Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Lung Cancer, commissioned by Cancer Australia, make it clear that best-practice lung cancer treatment is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team (MDT), of which lung cancer nurses (LCNs) are an important component,” she said.

“There simply aren’t enough lung cancer nurse positions in Australia because these roles are currently funded at a hospital or clinic level rather than being given national priority.

“This has caused a critical shortage of lung cancer nurse roles in Australia, with fewer than 20 nurses spread across 62 lung cancer MDTs.

“We are not asking for a hand-out, we’re asking the government to let us prove that investing in the care and support of lung cancer patients and their families benefits everyone.

“We know these programs work from the success of specialist lung cancer nurse programs in places such as the United Kingdom where more than 80% of patients see a specialist nurse.

“While we are grateful for the steps taken by the Australian Government to support people with cancer in recent years, there is a vital need for more lung cancer specific nurse roles to improve outcomes and reduce the burden on the overall health bill.

“There are many extremely hard working people across the entire health system who put in huge amounts of time and commitment to look after lung cancer patients.

“At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be a discussion about numbers and budgets but about providing the best possible care for people with lung cancer and their families.”

For more information on Lung Foundation Australia’s campaign to ensure Australians have access to lung cancer nurses, or to read the full submission, visit http://lungfoundation.com.au/federal-budget-2014-15-submission/