Record number of lung cancer operations as patient survival rates continue to rise

Published: 20 Nov 2017

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The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) today published a new report revealing that almost 6,000 lung cancer operations took place in 2015, with a record 98.1% of patients alive after 30 days of operation and 96.3% alive after 90 days.

The fourth annual lung cancer clinical outcomes publication (LCCOP), published as part of the RCP’s National Lung Cancer Audit and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain & Ireland (SCTS), shows that there was a survival rate of 87.9% after one year, similar to last year’s rate of 87.7% in 2014.

The number of operations that took place rose by almost 5% across 28 NHS Trusts, going from 5,657 operations in 2014 to 5,936 in 2015.  Surgeons are, as a result, seeing more cases, with a median of 49 operations per consultant in 2015, rising from 30 cases per surgeon in 2012.

For the first time ever, the LCCOP has measured the different ways in which the operation is carried out, and reveals that almost half the operations are carried out using minimally-invasive or “keyhole” techniques. In addition, 30 procedures took place with the use of robotic techniques. The LCCOP will continue to report results after robotic and minimal access operations going forward, to assess their effectiveness and safety.

Other results remained consistent across the board, with the average stay in hospital remaining six days as it also was in 2014.

The NCLA is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP), and is managed by the Care Quality Improvement Department of the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr Paul Beckett, senior clinical lead for the National Lung Cancer Audit said: ‘Surgery, while very complex, is the first choice of treatment for patients as it offers the best chance of survival. It is therefore hugely reassuring to see that operations are safe in both the short and medium term. The LCCOP is an invaluable resource in measuring clinical outcomes for this common type of cancer, and it is very encouraging to see the positive results that operations are having on patients’ lives.’

Doug West, Thoracic Audit Lead for the SCTS said: ‘We welcome this latest LCCOP report which shows that the NHS is continuing to deliver more surgery for lung cancer, and that survival rates after operations are increasing. It is incredibly useful to see the increasing depth of the data being presented, including the reporting of longer-term outcomes. The data reported this year is important in helping patients and families make informed choices about their care, especially around chances of survival and length of stay in hospital.’

The LCCOP audit reports on the outcomes of operations to remove lung cancers in NHS hospitals in England during 2015. The report measures outcomes of individual consultant thoracic and cardiothoracic surgeons who carry out operations for lung cancer. The data is published as part of the NLCA programme, in response to an initiative of NHS England (Everyone Counts: Planning for Patients), aspiring to create greater transparency and as a result, more choice for patients and commissioners. The process of collecting, checking, analysing and reporting the data that underpins this report is complex, and it is necessary to allow enough time to pass to be able to calculate outcomes such as 1 year survival, which is why there is a time lag between the operations and the report. We will continue to work to reduce this lag time for future reports.

The information published in this report is available on The Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain & Ireland website and will be available on NHS Choices from 5 December 2017. It  enables patients to make informed decisions about the treatment that they receive and where they are able to receive it. This is an excellent example of placing individuals at the centre of their own care, helping to ensure that they receive the appropriate care from highly trained professionals.