Macmillan Cancer Support, Are You Listening Yet?

I have just been sent a copy of the latest set of accounts from Macmillan Cancer Support, the headline being that ‘fundraised income’ dropped from £247.7m in 2017 to £230.8 in 2018. A drop of nearly £17m, which is large in anyone’s book. So finally even the ‘big green corporate beast’ of the cancer world is being impacted by it’s continual practice of wanting to totally dominate the sector, from small groups right up to Government. Doing it’s best to tell us what we want/need, which of course must be right because Macmillan tell us!

This organisation has become the darling of the media and politicians. On almost any cancer related issue it seems it is not complete without a quote from their many highly paid ‘media friendly’ team. Macmillan organise many Parliamentary discussions about cancer, ensuring they have the views and friendly people they require in the room. If you are not convinced personally about how good their work is, they now bombard you with expensive television adverts telling you that they are there for EVERYONE affected by cancer, of course they are!

Feeling reassured because Macmillan are right there with us!

Unfortunately the only voice they want to listen to is their own, and the more times they hear it the better. They truly believe that despite growing criticism of the way they work, that they can continue on this track because they have become untouchable within the rapidly changing cancer charity sector. The style is now dictatorial, with less concern about the people affected by cancer and more focus on filling the space with aggressive fundraising campaigns. Apparently the organisation also has approximately £180.9m in reserves which is quite some figure, from a charity that boasts it gives £37.6m in financial support for people affected by cancer. To put these figure more into context, their total income for 2018 was £235.7m which was raised at a cost of £65.7m!

As most of you may know, neither Chris’s Cancer Community work or SimPal will (proudly) not feature anywhere within Macmillan charity! That is because after a face to face discussion with a senior Executive and a back up letter from their CEO my style of working is considered too ‘risky’ for the wonderful brand of Macmillan! I don’t think the fact that I told them that being associated with their brand was too risky for me, helped their mood! It seems I am seen as COMPETITION with innovative ideas and a strong online community.

I am not the only one either! So many online innovators are being blocked by them, to protect their brand, without a thought that the idea might benefit people, and their vast reach could help dramatically. In my opinion they are now a massive obstacle to innovative cancer support, as they have media and politicians eating out of their hands. There is one major asset that Macmillan use brilliantly to market themselves and that is the incredible Macmillan Nurses.

The wonderful Macmillan Centre at my own hospital St Georges in London

Many of the general public don’t understand that these wonderful people are not all employed by Macmillan Cancer Support. In most cases their roles were funded originally for a limited period and are now all employed by the numerous NHS Trusts. Therefore it is not the decision of the charity who does or does not receive their services. As a charity SimPal now deal with most Macmillan Centres across the country helping the incredible nurses on the front line deal with some of the complex applications we receive for support. This is the same for many smaller charities like mine. The staff understand what benefits smaller community organisations can offer and are very keen to collaborate, for the benefit of their patients.

The winds of change are blowing rapidly now through the charity sector! Big is necessary but not always beautiful, expert local knowledge can be very powerfully harnessed with national exposure but there must be a common goal! Most of us smaller charities are in the space for one reason only, to make life better for people living with cancer! Not to become a giant or raise millions, we don’t have such lofty ambitions, but to just help. We are currently not treated with respect and nor are even the supporters of this behemoth. Their service is like going to a supermarket and only being offered ‘own brand,’ when better products exist elsewhere.

Continuing with very unpopular fundraising challenges despite much criticism will not endear you to people. Blocking us, the very people who have personal experience and expertise in cancer won’t either. Despite what you may think your organisation has much to learn and one of the best ways we can all do that is by listening. Not trying to drown us out by making more expensive noise! My concern is for the patients that come to me complaining what poor service they received from you. When I want to talk to you about that, I don’t expect a letter signed from the CEO telling me to go to the website to raise my issues!!

I chose to write this piece as constructive criticism for the organisation you have become. Your influence is undoubted and many don’t want to talk publicly about their experiences, but as you know I am quite happy to share mine! If you don’t listen to me then what about the message your donors are giving you, and voting with their feet?

You can read the report from the Third Sector

You can read the Macmillan accounts

As always these are my personal views and experiences, and I’m sure there are many positive experiences from Macmillan Cancer Support Charity. Please feel free to share your own in the comments section below.


  1. Chris, you have really spoken truth to power. Something I was not able to achieve when I was writing my chapter on Macmillan’s work in my doctoral thesis – it had to be toned down somewhat because I had to present a ‘balanced view’ with evidence of my academic research. However, it was always my concern that this charity was losing sight of important cancer work on the ground as it became the giant of the cancer industry. Macmillan refused to support my doctorate research on women returning to work after cancer because they considered it of no interest to its members and that is when alarm bells began to ring out loud and clear to me. Your honesty is appreciated by many of us.
    Thank you for bringing this to public attention. It gives a new meaning to transparency which all of us must seek out.


    • Hi Dianne, thank you so much for sharing your personal experience of this organisation. Unfortunately I see this behaviour across most sectors of their work unless there is a sniff of fundraising! I believe that instead of improving the world of cancer support having got the monopoly they now they are blocking anyone they see as competition to their mantra. Most of us have more experience and ideas than they do, but for some reason we are seen as competition.

      As you well know that attitude comes from the top and I am shocked that very few people in the sector query the way they work. I work directly with their nurses as I am persona non grata with the charity, but we just want to help people!

      It is a massive disgrace that they act the same way with experts like yourself! They want to control the entire sector simply because of their fundraising issues. I hope these latest figures are a sign that the public are becoming less convinced by their never ending stream of adverts! I will continue to show the public what they are up to!

      Keep up your incredible work, Chris

    • I wonder if Macmillan wouldn’t support your Thesis because it was on women returning to work? It no longer supplies contacts for suitable jobs – although it used to. I suspect it regards us a material for volunteering i.e.fundraising for Macmillan. If we are in work we aren’t able to do volunteer work

  2. It’s not that Macmillan aren’t listening, far from it. They are doing damage control like all corporate companies. Silence is the best form of control, narcissists know this to well. Macmillan has a touch of narcissism, whereby they feed people what they want them to hear. Not the true facts that are laid bare not hidden. Ask the right questions, they actually tell you the truth. But publicity wise they bend the truth, smooth it over so it doesn’t seem important. That in some way we should be selfish about our cancer treatment and accept their bread crumbs as a means to appease doubt or negative thought. The grotesque machine thrives off guilt and desperation to prove their pathway is positive on all levels within support. For example, they raise £240m, but how much interest was earned on said amounts. They dont discuss that because people show no interest. If they have £64m in reserves again where is the interest being spent. The average nurse earns £34 thousand, yet we believe with our donations pay. Yet it is tax payers cash that pays their wage. Of course, the government are under a legal obligation to maintain a high standard of training and care within their hospitals, but what about care homes with residents with cancer. On two sites I never saw a Macmillan nurse supporting family members, especially end of life. There are so many holes in their thesis of what care is, that its laughable. You can talk the talk Macmillan, but you sure as hell don’t walk it.

    • You have said it so much better than me Sarah. This is exactly what is happening. Thank you so much for sharing your own experiences, which are so valuable.

    • Thank you for the support Karen. I will not rest whilst these people continue behaving as they do. It is not their money, they are trusted guardians, currently abusing that trust.

  3. Excellent article as always, the fantastic nurses I work with are more than happy to recommend me and Jo Divine, show our products, give out products and signpost their patients to our website. When I hear people praising Macmillan it is about the staff not the brand. As you say many nurses did a Macmillan course and are actually employed by the NHS,not paid by Macmillan. One former nurse told me it was all about the brand, now she works in a hospice she can recommend services and products she think can really improve QOL and she can also use massage oils and lovely beauty products kindly donated for patients, something Macmillan refused to let her do.

    • Exactly right Sam, it is indeed about the staff and not the brand! The nurses on the ground are incredible and as you say are also frustrated with the obsession around their brand. Slowly people are understanding what is happening.

  4. When was the last time, they listened to people affected by cancer? You probably know how I feel about the Big Mac, don’t you? Nx

    • Probably when you were there Nick! I certainly know how you feel about the Big Mac. Hope all going well with you guys.

  5. My experience of Macmillan with both my mother-in-law and my wife was very poor. The only excellent people connected with them were the volunteers at the Cantreat Centre at Halton Hospital.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that Ian. I do note that the charity has sent you a generic apology/reply to ask for more details of what happened, if you feel you want to respond to them directly. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

  6. Well done Chris. I was disgusted with Macmillan when I was diagnosed. As soon as the Macmillan nurse in the consulting room heard I would have my op privately, she washed her hands of me. Whilst being treated in hospital, I was told as I was private I couldn’t take advantage of therapies. This was even written on the website. I had a word with their CEO, told him (as it was in those days) that people like our family (who fundraised in a big way for Macmillan, running Balls, opening our gardens in aid of them, etc.) heard of this, fund-raising might go elsewhere. I got a phone call back shortly after saying I would be welcome in the therapy centre. But nothing much has changed.

    • Hi Verite,

      I can just imagine that entire scenario! As you say nothing much has changed, it is still the eternal chase for fundraising above all else!

  7. Well done you. Especially on BAME no one wants to know breast cancer care more attentive and supportive.I pointed this out when I first diagnosed then I featured in a few leaflet n annual report 2013 then nothing else kept telling them to look for more BAMe

    Straight to the point, except you are #fundrasing!

    • You wouldn’t think that from their latest adverts Della. They say they are there for everyone with everything you need! All paid for with money donated to help people affected by #cancer.
      Unfortunately Della macmillancancer just won’t listen to people affected by #cancer unless you are #fundraising No humility from senior management of the #charity

  8. I have another concern – why the macmillan encourages fund rising with cakes? Paradoxically, cakes are type of ultraprocessed and high fat, sugar and/or salt foods that contribute to cancers. Why they don’t create fund rising with vegetables and fruits – it woukd be a double win: UK (and all over the world) does not eat enough veg, vegetables contribute to cancer risk reduction, also they are more sustainable (less packaging and energy and other resources is needed to produce them compared to the #UPFs and #HFSS). I have a real issue with fund rising with cakes – it drives demand for their production (in my child’s school they only want shop bought cakes while handling them without gloves – where is sense in that!?).

  9. Hi Magdalena,

    It’s an interesting point you make! My personal opinion is this particular method of fundraising brings in a large chunk of money so they won’t change it. I don’t really think they consider anything or anyone that gets in the way of raising money. Now you can see cake makers and coffee companies joining in. Only about money not about people I’m afraid. I’m sure they will tell you every one enjoys it! Ultimately only donors can change these things, and whilst people support it they will continue doing it.

  10. I wish macmillans could be investigated.It appears that there are problems across the board.I have recently had an experience with them that has caused me a great deal of stress.They appear to be bullying the very vulnerable people they are supposed to be supporting.

    • Hi Simon,
      Thanks for sharing your own recent experiences. I wrote this post more than 2 and 1/2 years ago. It’s a real shame that things don’t seem to have improved. There is a lot of money spent on that organisation, around 250 million per year. People affected by cancer need as much support as they can get. Fingers crossed that things improve, they certainly need too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *