Monday, 25 April 2016

The Christie named as the world’s most technologically advanced cancer centre outside of North America - Professor Chris Harrison

Professor Chris Harrison, Executive Medical Director

Professor Chris Harrison
There is a lot of building work going on at The Christie at the moment and we are also investing a lot of money in new technology. 

Anyone who is familiar with our main site in Withington will know that the landscape has changed considerably in the last 10 years and the work we have done is now paying dividends.

I was delighted to find out recently that The Christie has been named as the world’s most technologically advanced cancer centre outside of North America according to the web site Top Masters in Healthcare. It has painstakingly researched 100 top cancer centres across the world and ranked them according to the level of cutting edge technology available for treatment and diagnosis. You can read more about this here.

Our technology not only helps us provide great medical care but also helps maintain the first rate experience of care reported by our patients.  

Unsurprisingly the centres ranked top are the major US centres such as Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and MD Anderson in Texas. However, the technology at The Christie including our cutting edge radiotherapy, chemotherapy centres and mobile delivery, advanced imaging techniques, brachytherapy, robotic surgery, developing integrated procedures unit, the developing proton beam centre and our integrated clinical trials unit put us 9th in the world and top ranked outside North America.  

This confirms previous findings that The Christie has all eight of the technologies identified by The US top hospital programme as being the hallmarks of a world leading cancer centre. These include our advanced radiotherapy capability, PET scanning and the ability to undertake robotic surgery. 

Of course availability of cutting edge technology is only one aspect of providing world class cancer care but surely it has to be one of the ingredients needed to provide world class care. The gold standard of a world class service must be the outcomes of care for the people we serve in communities across England and the quality of experience of that care. 

No technology can completely overcome the difficulties of treating cancer once it has spread and so we need to continue to find ways to allow cancer to be diagnosed early - this is what the new cancer vanguard in Manchester is working on. That said, it is comforting to know that right here in Manchester we have some of the best facilities in the world to diagnose and treat cancer.  

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to The Christie for saving my leg - John Burns

John Burns, Christie patient

John Burns
In the spring of 2015 I noticed a reddish spot on my lower left leg and went to get it checked out. It turned out that a tumour had developed over the previous 12 months, but due to me having Gross Lymphoedema in both legs, the tumor itself was not apparent until approximately six months prior to my referral to Manchester Royal Infirmary for various tests.

Following MRI scans, ECGs, blood tests, x-rays and other tests, my wife and I were told that the tumor was cancerous and that the only two alternatives were amputation of my leg or to try and remove the tumor by surgery. It was stressed that due to the cancer being extremely close to the shin bone it was considered doubtful of a good outcome. In spite of this I was referred to Mr Kosutic at The Christie.

When I met with Mr Kosutic, his first opinion was that amputation seemed the best option, but he and a colleague decided to check with a further scan. They confirmed that the cancer was only a few millimetres away from the shinbone.

Although a little doubtful, Mr Kosutic said he would operate and hopefully save my leg - a very brave decision – but somehow I had every faith in him, and six months later it is so far so good.

Prior to the operation it was explained to me that it would be a rather large wound, and so it turned out to be (19cm long by 14.5cm wide).

After the operation I needed special dressings that were put on in layers, with a 28mm thick sponge in between covering the wound. The outer layer had an outlet attached to a vacuum pump which compressed the dressing and sponge to the wound, and at the same time removed all the blood and lymph fluid, depositing it into a canister which was regularly changed. This marvellous machine allows healing to take place more rapidly.

The dressings were changed every five days for four weeks. This took a great deal of care and an unbelievable amount of patience, skill and good nature on the part of the nursing staff - angels every one of them! After I was discharged, I was transferred to the Bolton District nursing care.

In October 2015 I was re-admitted overnight for a skin graft operation. It went unbelievably well and I stopped using the vacuum pump after 10 weeks. I don't think the wound would have healed so quickly without the pump.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mr Kosutic for his wonderful skill, the skill of his team both in and out of theatre, and also to all of the nurses and staff on Ward 10 and the Surgical Ward who looked after me during my time at The Christie. Thank you all.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Half of all people born since 1960, the year I was born, will at some stage in their lives be diagnosed with cancer - Professor Chris Harrison

Professor Chris Harrison, Executive Medical Director at The Christie

Professor Chris Harrison
The Christie’s Executive Medical Director, Professor Chris Harrison has been appointed NHS England’s new National Clinical Director for Cancer, from 1st April 2016. In this new role, Professor Harrison will work with NHS England’s National Cancer Director, Cally Palmer, to implement the national five year cancer strategy, ‘Achieving World Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020’. 

Here, he blogs about his new role and how he will use his experience of improving cancer care at The Christie.

I am delighted to be joining the national cancer team to work with Cally Palmer, the National Cancer Director, and other team members in implementing the national strategy, “Achieving World Class Cancer Outcomes”.

We have a lot more to do if we are to achieve the objective of bringing about radical improvement in the outcomes that the NHS delivers for people affected by cancer. But it can be done and by setting out a vision for what cancer patients should expect from the health service, the strategy sets out how.

All of us working in health care have responsibility for people who have, or may have cancer. Half of all people born since 1960, the year I was born, will at some stage in their lives be diagnosed with cancer.

I was first introduced to cancer care as a medical student on the wards of hospitals in Manchester witnessing some of the huge variations in care and attitudes prevalent at that time. As a young hospital doctor I was thrown, unprepared, into discussing the possibility of cancer with patients and their relatives. Later I saw more of the wider impact on families and some of the difficulties of diagnosis as I sat with and learned from experienced and compassionate GPs in Lancashire. Cancer affected my own family and close friends with an impact going far beyond the medical aspects of treatment.

These early experiences shaped much of my later career by convincing me that we could prevent many cancers by organised efforts to support people and communities. And that we should be organising and leading cancer services more professionally so that specialist care, including palliative and supportive care, was available to all.

Much has changed since then but the twin aims of prevention and improving services remain at the core of the national programme, and is an important reason why I am so pleased to be involved.

In the 1990s, as a Director of Public Health in Lancashire, I had the privilege of overseeing plans for the new cancer centre in Preston with the associated development of the system of cancer care across the county. Later, as Regional Cancer Director in the North West, I led a peer review visiting programme to every hospital in the region, seeing for myself the opportunities to standardise and improve hospital care, and also through our primary care programme the importance of excellent primary care.

For 11 years I’ve been a trust medical director in both a specialised cancer centre – The Christie in Manchester – and then a large group of teaching hospitals – Imperial College Healthcare in West London. Both areas have moved towards ways of working between cancer services which allow whole pathways to be thought of and managed coherently rather than in isolation. I have seen at first hand the challenges and opportunities for cancer care both in highly specialised centres and also acute hospitals, but if we are to make the step change in cancer outcomes called for in the national strategy all parts of the health system must work together within the national framework.

The number of people with cancer will continue to increase and if our efforts at prevention and treatment are successful there will be more people alive with and surviving cancer in older age groups each year. This is one reason why improving the experience of cancer care is vital and given the same level of importance as improvements in survival and treatment.

At the same time the NHS faces unprecedented financial pressures and we must find new ways of organising and doing things. This means challenging existing approaches to develop effective mechanisms for commissioning and funding, and finding creative ways to work with voluntary, charitable and commercial organisations.

It also means challenging some ways of organising services, for example, finding faster more convenient ways of patients and GPs being able to access tests, using the whole range of professional skills available in the NHS, and using the lessons from the national cancer vanguard pilots.

National action alone cannot achieve these objectives but it can set the framework for local decisions and developments. I see my role as providing a focus for clinical advice into national policy and, as importantly providing support, encouragement and guidance to those seeking to improve outcomes for cancer patients and their families across the country.