There is nobody who likes to look at the world through ‘rose tinted’ glasses more than me! But at times that view must be tempered with a cold dose of reality. One of the headlines I read recently was ‘Britain sits at bottom of global league table for cancer survival rates.’ Unfortunately headlines like this don’t shock me anymore, why should we expect anything else? With a Government that has lost interest in governing, a Health Service trying to stay afloat, and large cancer charities jostling each other for money and influence, what chance is there for patients? Yes the figures are only up till 2014 and of course people are already arguing that things have improved, but those are policy makers, and not patients, having their lives torn apart by this terrible disease.
As more and more people are getting diagnosed it appears we are still acting like this is not really happening. ” Our survival rates are increasing” sure, but so are everyone else’s. “Things will be improving because we now have Proton Beam Therapy” yes we do, but yet again well behind most other countries in what we can achieve with it and how many people we can treat. Apparently according to the NHS long term plan we will be helping these survival rates by earlier diagnosis, but the latest data ( 2018/19) shows us that 94 centres out of 131 could not even start treatment within the 62 days of a cancer referral. This compares with just 36, 5 years ago!
At the end of 2017 I went to a meeting entitled ‘Britain against cancer,’ which was a big title I thought. Although I am probably one of the highest profile patients in this country, I hadn’t received an invite! Then I found out that it was being run by Macmillan Cancer Support, so I wasn’t surprised. But I did eventually get a ticket and went along to see what all the fuss was about. What a shock I received when listening to many senior people from the cancer sector. These guys could not run a bath, and quite clearly had no grip on reality. They were all cosying up to each other with the CEO of Macmillan and Jeremy Hunt. There were very few patients and schedules so tight that very few questions could be asked from the floor. What a massive waste of money, and from that day forward I lost what little faith I had in the system, having seen the people responsible for improving the sector ‘in action.’
With the same people moving round at the top of the tree, including employees moving from Macmillan to the NHS, it is naturally stale, with a total lack of innovatory ideas. Most people have been in the system for many years and the same old ideas are surfacing. Technology is improving our lives at such a pace, but still the NHS is using fax machines for certain jobs. Two years on from that meeting and I can honestly say the only thing that has happened is that we are further entrenched into BREXIT. I see this as a perfect excuse for those concerned, to hide behind the failure of Government for the last few years. It is a large factor but not the whole story. More importantly I see no WILL from the people responsible to improve things. If only our campaigning was as passionate as the politics in the last few years. I might not agree with what is going on but I do see PASSION.
I believe that in the cancer sector, many people are earning a lot of money for failing badly. It is not a problem for any of them when these statistics become public. They have become so used to playing the game of politics, it has become second nature. CEOs move round every few years, so nobody can establish who is to blame. Ministers also are no longer in a role to be accountable for anything. What I don’t understand is that cancer affects every family in the world, not just the UK. 50% of us will be directly impacted by it in our lifetime. Why are we not doing better? Of course more money would help, but it is not the entire answer. What is done, with or without money needs to have a much more joined up approach and be future proofed. Our country is used to constant ‘fire fighting’ with infrastructure projects, like transport, policing, education and of course the NHS. We used to lead the world with things like this but a lot has happened since then of course!
We are now paying the price for lack of investment over many years of time and money, as many of our older hospitals continue to decay! Much of the money going into the service will be swallowed up in maintenance costs and it will be difficult to see any benefit in terms of survival rates in the near future. Of course these figure can be improved, but who will lead this project? How much say will patients have in the future design of the service? What is blatantly obvious is that we cannot continue doing nothing!!
Where are Cancer Research and Macmillan who continually point out what is wrong, but do nothing to improve things. Interestingly I found a report from Macmillan going back approximately 5 years which makes for interesting reading!! This is another sector where much donated money is used to campaign, but what is the impact of this? We seem to be going backwards with our cancer care in this country. Most worryingly for me is that nobody who is in a position of influence in this country seems to want to ‘grasp the nettle.’ The subject of cancer is rarely raised unless there is some kind of fundraising involved, or a famous person gets diagnosed. The increase in cancer cases is one of the biggest threats we are facing today, why are we just sitting back watching??
I am not a conspiracy theory person at all, but I have to wonder, what is happening to all the money going into the sector, via Governments and donations, yet our results are getting worse? If this was a private business all those people responsible would have been sacked by now!! As always these are my personal views from my experiences, and please feel free to share your own below.
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.