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Interview with Dr Toby Kent PHD MPH

Head of Medical Affairs (Oncology), AbbVie UK

Patients with blood cancers need more involvement in treatment decision-making, according to industry expert.

Shared decision-making between healthcare professionals and patients is key to the NHS, Long Term Plan and achieving better outcomes for people with long term conditions.

In chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), a type of blood cancer where patients can have different experiences and care needs, advances in therapy offer increasing treatment choices.

However, research shows that only 49% of people with CLL fully understand their condition and just 33% report being offered a choice of treatments. Due to its impact on the immune system, COVID-19 has also added complexity to CLL care, while reducing opportunities for patient involvement.

Personalised care

Dr Toby Kent, Head of Medical Affairs (Oncology) at AbbVie UK emphasises the growing importance of personalised care. “One size fits all approaches in a health and care system, simply cannot meet the increasing complexity and expectation of people’s needs,” he says.

“The shared decision-making approach is really important – it is a process in which individuals and healthcare professionals work together to understand and decide on an appropriate option based on an individual’s circumstances and preferences.

“Evidence shows that when people are engaged in their own care in this way, they have better health outcomes and a better experience of care.”

One size fits all approaches in a health and care system, simply cannot meet the increasing complexity and expectation of people’s needs

Treatment plans

Shared decision-making can also result in treatment plans that better reflect patients’ goals.

This discussion with clinicians can include treatment type and duration, side effects, tests, access to support and where patients have treatment as well as, what living better with CLL means to them.

“All these can influence an appropriate treatment choice,” says Dr Kent. Specifically, with CLL, he says areas to highlight are: the importance of patients having timely access to good information and signposting to patient groups; care plans setting out holistic needs and long-term goals in a patient’s cancer care; open and honest communication between healthcare professionals and patients, their families and caregivers.

Not everyone with long term conditions like CLL can or want to be an expert in their disease. For those that do, it requires industry, healthcare professionals, patient groups, policy makers and health bodies all playing a role. 

In their report Empowering Conversations: Making shared decision making a reality for patients in an evolving NHS, AbbVie outlines recommendations on how this can be taken forward.

AbbVie has contributed to and funded this content
June 2021

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