NHS Cutbacks and how they affect Cancer Patients

It’s not often that I introduce a personal dimension to this blog, which is, after all, a book blog but this has been an eventful week for me and I hope that I can enlighten, educate and empower other folk by raising awareness of how the care of cancer patients is being affected by not just “proposed” cutbacks but actual, real, happening now cutbacks.  Even if you don’t live in the UK, I firmly believe it is worth your while to read on and be aware of what is happening in cancer care.  One in three of us will be directly affected by cancer (ie diagnosed) in our lifetime.  We are an aging population, we have earlier detection and diagnosis but this means that much  more money should be invested in treatment and follow up care.  A lot of patients, like myself, are fortunate to be survivors but we are still entitled to high standards of follow up care, including access to a cancer specialist nurse (not all health authorities do this!), advice on benefits etc plus a much better organised system of follow up care whereby patients, like myself, do not have to chase up results month after month, remind consultants that we are due for another scan, have easy access to expert advice if we experience worrying symptoms further along our cancer survivor journey.

Before Christmas I was interviewed by local media as Macmillan Cancer Care had announced a £1 million investment in the NHS, with a focus on restructuring follow up care for cancer patients so that there would be improved communication with patients and between health professionals.  Believe me, when I have to ring up my GP on a daily basis for scan results and end up waiting several months for results which end up being inconclusive, it is certainly not conducive to good health, mentally or physically!  Recently I participated in an American (so I was toldby the producer) style infomercial produced by Macmillan with the aim of lobbying local MPs to pay due attention to cancer services here in N Ireland.  The end result can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRU6WD1_guU .  Never mind the fact that I’m in the clip, just think about cutbacks in the NHS and how they are affecting and indeed, are guaranteed to affect you and your loved ones in the near future and beyond.

Since I had the idea of creating a post on this topic, I received an e mail which shocked and saddened me.  The wonderful lady who co-ordinates Patient and Public Involvement within the N Ireland Cancer Network informed me that her job is no longer being funded.  Thanks to her enthusiasm, passion for her job and extremely affable nature, I have been a Patient Representative for the past 18 months, representing the interest of urological cancer patients at meetings with consultants and other health professional.  Thanks to her encouragement, I have found the confidence to stand up and address a group of 50 health professionals including some particularly grumpy consultants (they’re not all like that!).  Thanks to her faith in me, I have become involved with campaigning for political change via Macmillan.  Indeed, thanks to her I have summoned up the courage to re-enter the world of work after a 7 year gap as a stay-at-home Mum (job applications currently pending..).

Some of the patient representatives have expressed their uncertainty at continuing to be involved…if indeed, that will be an option.  We are all unpaid volunteers but it has been a pleasure to be involved.  Speaking for myself, I intend to continue the good work which this lovely lady commenced and to fight the good fight.

So, do lobby your local politicians, councillors about how they intend not only  to maintain but also to improve standards of health care for cancer patients.  Maybe I have been particularly affected by this but prior to my diagnosis, I had already experienced my Mum’s breast cancer as well as that of my sister, my aunt’s lung cancer, the loss of a dear friend to breast cancer and my cousin was, within the last year, diagnosed with a terminal abestos-related lung cancer having already had prostrate cancer three years ago.   I certainly don’t think I’m alone as I have met so many folk through my patient rep involvement who have experienced this dreadful disease.

Please like the YouTube clip, support Macmillan and any other cancer charities you know and barrage those politicians.  I know we live in hard times and we need to tighten our financial belts but the government needs to think carefully before picking on services which charitable organisations are already subsidising.

Onwards and upwards! :-)

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12 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    Teresa – thank you for sharing this. Not something that I know about at all, so it is good to hear about it and fantastic that you are in that promotional video. I can certainly write a letter to my local politician (I am also concerned about the cuts to mental health services), but is there anything else I can do? I don’t have huge amounts of money to donate to charity so writing letters and things is a good way forward.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you, Verity, for taking the time to comment. The cutbacks in the NHS are affecting all areas and yes, I agree that mental health is being severely affected also to the extent that those in the community with mental health issues are being deprived of much needed services which can mean the difference between life and death. Such a sad society we live in where vulnerable folk are being neglected and only those with money can access essential services. Again, thank you for commenting – cancer and indeed mental health still have a stigma attached to them…we think we have developed so much as a society and sadly, the opposite is true. Charities will bear the brunt of all these measures and we don’t always have to give money but whatever time we can spare. Txx

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  4. Elaine Dingsdale says:

    Onwards and upwards, indeed. The importance of this type of support cannot be under estimated-both to the patients, like ourselves, and our beleaguered families and friends. Keep up tjhe good work.

  5. admin says:

    Elaine, I know it’s so hard to imagine a situation which one hasn’t been in before if one hasn’t already had direct experience of cancer or had a family member or a friend affected by it but I want to shake people out of their complacency. If we lose these valuable services now we won’t be getting them back again for a long, long time and then it will be too late to complain! I know I’m preaching to the converted here but I just feel so passionately about this.

  6. Violet says:

    It’s always the most vulnerable people who get hit the hardest when governments cut services. This is so wrong. I hope people stand up for the cause and make their feelings known to politicians. You do great video, by the way. You could do a video post to help get the message out there. :)

  7. Verity says:

    I just remembered after commenting that actually we are planning to support Macmillan with our charitable endeavours this year as well as Mind – my other half is doing Tour D’Etalpe (stupidly long bike ride) with them to raise money in memory of his stepfather, and I hope to do a 10k swim (half for Macmillan and half for Mind). It’s sad when charity is so important for the maintenance of what seems almost essential services.

  8. admin says:

    Well done, Verity! Macmillan are celebrating their centenary this year and we need to have them around for at least another hundred years. I know so many people who have benefitted from the care of Macmillan nurses and the advice of Macmillan key workers. Good luck woth all your charitable work! Tx

  9. Verity says:

    I didn’t know it was their centenary! Macmillan nurses are FANTASTIC; they are helping my OH’s Dad at the moment and were of great help to his stepfather/mother – muchos respect to them.

  10. admin says:

    Verity, here’s a wee piece from their website about the history http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/WhoWeAre/Our_history.aspx

    100 years ago Douglas Macmillan was giving out coal to impoverished cancer patients who couldn’t afford to heat their homes. Today Macmillan still provide subsidies for patients who require help with fuel costs. A sobering thought!

    I am hoping to “model” alongside my sister (another cancer survivor) at a Fashion Show in November to raise funds for Macmillan. Not as gruelling as your charitable efforts but still quite a challenge for us both! :-)

  11. Luci says:

    Thank you for writing about this – what a shame that your support worker’s job has been cut!

    I’m very worried about this issue at the moment – my mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year, and was quite successfully treated, but it was quite advanced at time of diagnosis in February 2010. Significantly, she was diagnosed before the elections and when there were still tight deadlines for following up diagnosis with treatment (now scrapped). If she hadn’t been treated when she was (surgery 5 weeks after initial diagnosis) she wouldn’t be alive now.

    Last year’s treatment was successful but she has just had to have further treatment for another cancer, fortunately quite early this time, but she had very frustrating delays in communication with doctors etc, and we are waiting to hear whether they think this is a new primary or a secondary.

  12. admin says:

    Luci, I am sorry to hear that. Your Mum sounds like a real fighter and I do hope she gets the information she needs re the new tumour very soon so you can all move on. Knowledge is power and sometimes poor communication can cause so much heartache for patients (as I know from personal experience!). If you are still experiencing trouble with accessing information, do pester your GP to act as your advocate/go-between and also, although it can be frustrating, a few phonecalls to the consultant’s secretary won’t go amiss. I’m developing quite a thick skin as a result! Thinking of you and your family. x

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