So I have been writing and talking about cancer professionally for over 10 years. As the world is changing so dramatically, it felt like a good time to review what my experience is showing me. In honesty I can see nothing but a global disaster. There are many times that I feel my time has been totally wasted. My goal has always been solely to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. It’s extremely difficult to look at just one issue, as everything is interconnected. But if you don’t, it is too easy to get side tracked, and lose your entire focus.
Until covid arrived, I really felt we were making some progress. Very slow admittedly, but forward at least! Now we are rapidly in decline. Relatively little focus on cancer. With world politics and the economy, now taking centre stage. We are ‘fighting fires’ daily, with no sign of any long-term strategy for the basics of society. Including healthcare. The picture I see here in the UK, is mirrored, if not worse in other similar economies. I never thought I would see the day when cancer was not one of the main priorities in the world. A disease that will affect 50% of us directly. Thirty million people here alone.
We currently have the longest waiting lists ever. Less and less money going into research. With ineffective leadership, it feels like sadly, many are just going through the motions. Seemingly accepting that at least 450 people will die daily. Greedy charities continuing to plead for money from vulnerable people. Giant pharma dictating where the money is spent. Not necessarily where it’s needed, but where the biggest gains might be. Why not, it is a business after all. Everyone TALKING about equality but in reality we see quite the reverse.
Most patients with little financial resource, will still only receive the basics of cancer care. Whilst others may be able to find other options outside the NHS etc. Very little coordination in the sector at all, whether nationally or internationally. Suiting everyone of course, except us patients. The industry is worth billions annually, but what progress are we seeing for that investment? Yes we have some improved treatments, but survival rates for many cancers are still well behind equivalent countries.
Technology has made record advancements in this time. But the NHS has been very slow to engage. Unless the culture changes, it will always be that way. My feeling is that the pull and financial rewards of independent agendas, is still stronger than making real change. Covid showed us what we can really do when we focus on a global challenge! In my opinion we have accepted expensive failure in this sector for far too long. Being manipulated by particularly ‘pharmaceuticals.’ My belief is also that there is widespread corruption throughout .
Despite the efforts of so many, including my own. We are in a worse place than 10 years ago. It is a lottery if you get the best available treatment at the right time. Many peripheral services are being removed so treatment for side-effects will be more difficult to find. On the positive side, ‘raising awareness’ of cancer has increased dramatically. Ironically creating longer waiting lists for tests and treatment!
So where to we start to put things back on track? For something as important as this I believe we need a Minister for cancer. Somebody, who in an ideal world would take responsibility for progress. (Like most of you, I also have a lack of faith in politicians, but can see no alternative here.) We currently have Government puppets in the NHS who are totally ineffective. This is in line with all the ‘playing to the crowd’ that the rest of the sector is also doing. Are we really looking to find cures? Should we be looking more at prevention, or less treatment for certain individuals? Whatever the answer, more people will be dying if we don’t make some choices quickly.
The system we have today is only serving the people working in it. There is still no real sign of the patient being at the heart of everything. Certainly not whilst there are huge financial rewards for failure. So having just completed this piece, our Government now looks like it will collapse as senior Ministers resign. Yet more chaos to deal with, pushing cancer even further back. Hard to see where we go from here?
As always these are my personal opinions based on experience. Please feel free to share your own below.