It’s now incredibly 15 years since I had my initial stem cell transplant. Like everyone else I never believed that cancer would touch me, despite my father dying of it, and my mother being affected by breast cancer. When you were young, you never believed that anything would halt that healthy ambitious person. Certainly not until you became ‘old.’ Whatever age that might be to any of us? That was of course my ‘life changing’ moment! There had to be ways to improve the lives of the growing number of people affected by cancer. Also surely, improve the ever increasing numbers affected by it. In 2007, 30% of us were directly affected by it. Now it is 50%!
Of course there have been some improvements in that time. But nothing like there should have been, considering the time and financial resources given to it. More people are living with the disease, rather than dying from it. Certain treatments are now much more targeted, and less harsh on the entire body. But in my personal opinion this is not really success at all.
Being extremely lucky with the gift of ‘extra time,’ I made it my life’s work to improve this situation. With high level business skills, I believed that this task was not beyond our country, or the world. I really did gain massive encouragement through covid. We watched as many nations collaborated to find effective vaccines. A position of hope had been reached in a staggeringly quick time. ” So why not cancer,” I thought?
But prior to covid, I could feel the urgency of cancer, waning. Still the same issues arriving annually. As the country started to lurch from one crisis to the next, the priority of healthcare and particularly cancer was becoming less important. The government truly set out their position during covid, by ignoring everything else, except the virus for approximately 2 years. Now we are in total chaos, with the virtual collapse of the NHS and record waiting times.
During my early years of exploration in the sector, it became obvious that this way of working would not really improve anything, as quickly as it should. Despite my suggestions to charity, clinicians, pharmaceuticals and at Government meetings, everyone appeared ‘comfortable.’ Of course they were! All earning money, fat pensions and profits. Hardly ever did I see patients involved in any meaningful process. Mostly just box ticking by organisations that should know better.
In 2017 I attended a conference named ‘ Britain Against Cancer.’ I thought this sounds like a bit of me! We will be doing something active, was my presumption. The guest list included Jeremy Hunt, Secretary for Health at that time. Also many senior members of large charities and the NHS. Naturally very few patients! OMG, it was one of the biggest areas of hot air I have ever had the misfortune of attending. ” If this is all we have against the plague of our time, I should give up now,” I thought. There was a good deal of time spent talking about the delay of the national cancer plan at that time, ironically. Here is my review of that meeting.
So there was a plan of sorts, but I can’t say it gave me any more confidence. As the years went on, more chaos followed, and yet more discussions about the next plan and the next. Mostly wind and false promises, hidden behind standard NHS/ Governmental gobbledygook. That reminds me, where are our senior cancer staff? Hard for most to even name one. I’ll help you here. We have Dame Cally Palmer appointed as National Cancer Director in 2015, yes 2015! Also we have Professor Peter Johnson who is the National Clinical Director since 2019. I had to Google them too! Here is a link to what they have been doing recently. Like many in the sector, working hard I’m sure, what where are the results? Just not good enough I’m afraid!!
So now in 2023 it has been decided to scrap the cancer plan totally. With Steve Barclay announcing a ‘major conditions strategy totally 6 major conditions! This comes not long after Sajid Javid announced a war on cancer around a year ago! It leaves England as one of only a handful of countries, including North Korea and Afghanistan, without a dedicated national standalone cancer plan. I do hope you are keeping up, still!
The only conclusion that I can draw from all this nonsense, is that healthcare, and certainly cancer, is far too complex for politicians. Any amount of lobbying will make no difference and continue to waste more valuable resource. Seniors in the NHS must get off the fence and speak out on behalf of the nation, including their own staff. I’m very much aware of the current strikes and I pray that the staff succeed here. This is about ALL of us, to have a service that works in 2023, and will be fit for purpose, going forward.
Let us understand that despite what is said, the reality of any plan is very far from the truth. Gone are the days where we can trust the system of politics to work in our best interests. If any of you in a position of influence don’t fancy the fight, then please move over. 30 million people in this country will be directly impacted by cancer. That should be motivation for you enough!! As always these are my personal opinions formed from experience. Please feel free to share your own below.