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The Age Old Excuse Campaign

The Age Old Excuse Campaign


We all have different needs and older people are no exception. Some are frail, whilst others are fit and active.

Regardless of age, everyone should get the treatment that’s right for them.

But the UK has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe for older people. Every year there are around 14,000 avoidable cancer deaths in people over 75 . One of the reasons for this is that they are sometimes not offered the right treatment.

We are calling for:

•Older people to be offered treatment and care based on their fitness rather than their age

•Services to be made accessible to meet the needs of older people

•Staff to be given the time and training needed to provide the best possible care



Macmillan is working in partnership with the Department of Health and Age UK on a project to improve access to treatment for older people with cancer.

The Government has set out ambitious plans to improve cancer survival rates in England, and it has recognised that it will not deliver on those plans unless it tackles inequalities in terms of access to and outcomes from treatment.

This is very important in relation to older people, given that cancer is primarily a disease of this age group. The Government has also made commitments to improve the wellbeing of patients living with long term conditions, including cancer, and to improve their experience of care – so it is essential that services provided meet the needs of older people.

We know that older people often present with cancers at a later stage and are more likely to have their cancers diagnosed through emergency routes – factors that have an impact on their survival rates. We also know that cancer treatment rates are lower in older people, which again, of course, has an impact on survival rates. What we do not know, however, is the extent to which treatment rates are lower due to patient choice and clinical factors, such as comorbidities.

We set up this project to test the hypothesis that improved assessment methods of older cancer patients would result in improved access to appropriate cancer treatment. We also aimed to test whether action being taken to address the needs identified during the assessment improved the scope for older people to benefit from treatment. In January 2011, five pilot sites were set up in England to test different approaches to delivering this.

While the nature of such a project is that you cannot get hard numbers about how many

additional lives you could save or the extent to which you could improve patient wellbeing and experience, we have learned a lot about the value of a proper assessment of older cancer patients’ needs, the importance of giving older patients the right support packages, and the challenges associated with delivering appropriate assessment and practical support.

This report provides further information about the importance of fully assessing older people’s needs, about how the projects ran, and what they found. Taking the learning, it then provides clear recommendations for commissioners and providers about what they could do to improve assessment and care of older people with a diagnosis of cancer.

Sir Mike Richards, Natiional Clinical Director - Cancer and End of Life Care

Ciarán Devane, CEO - Macmillan Cancer Support

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General - Age UK

You can Read the project report; Cancer Services Coming of Age


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