NEW figures have revealed wide variations in care for head and neck cancer patients, with Lancashire and South Cumbria trailing behind most other regions.

The National Head and Neck Cancer Audit examined how far England’s 28 regional cancer networks were delivering the ‘Ideal Patient Pathway’.

Across the country, just 3.1 per cent of patients were recorded as receiving ideal care, with the largest group, 24.7 per cent, receiving three aspects.

The ‘ideal pathway’ contains seven elements of ‘holistic and integrated care’ such as nutritional, speech and language and dental assessments and chest scans or x-rays before surgery. It also involves people’s disease being discussed by a multi-disciplinary team including specialist surgeons, oncologists, speech therapists and nursing staff.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, there were no patients who received all seven aspects of the ‘ideal pathway’, while two per cent received none of them For each case, an average of 2.3 of the key elements had been recorded, which was the joint- third lowest figure in the country. Only Merseyside and Cheshire had worse scores (1.6) while the best was in South West London (5.1). The national average was 3.1.

Sara Osborne, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said it was ‘disappointing’ to see such variation in care.

She said: “It’s now up to the new Strategic Clinical Networks to provide clinical support to address any variation in care for all head and neck cancer patients wherever they are in the country."”

The figures were recorded over a year until November 1, 2012.

The neck and cancer consultant at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was unavailable for comment yesterday.