Like many other workplaces across the country, our library at Park House is hosting a Macmillan Coffee morning this week, selling delicious allegedly home-baked cakes to raise money for the cancer charity.  The Coffee Morning has become an important fixture of the fund-raising calendar, in 2013, 154,000 people signed up, raising a record £20 million.

Hilary Brown

Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer (Cancer Research UK, 2014), so in the hour and a half it takes to hold that coffee morning, another 45 people will be facing up to their worst fears - according to Cancer Research UK, cancer is the number one fear for the British public, ahead of debt, knife crime, Alzheimer’s disease and losing a job.

The good news is that while cancer incidence is on the increase, our survival rates are getting better with two in four people now surviving for 10 years. There are currently 2 million people living with cancer in the UK and by 2030 it is estimated that there will be 4 million. As our latest report for Cancer Research UK - Measuring up? The health of NHS cancer services points outinterventions are prolonging life and for many patients cancer is becoming more of a long-term condition than an acute episode of illness but up until now ‘survivorship’ has not received the attention it deserves from providers and commissioners. 

Our report raises serious doubts about the ability of the NHS to meet these future demands. There appears to be a growing awareness that we need to do things differently for people living with the consequences and potential side effects  of cancer treatment but the lack of ‘headspace’ to think change through and the limited practical support and resources on the ground to make change a reality are constraining factors.

A different model of care is required than that which has been provided to date, with better integration of care between secondary and primary care. It is acknowledged that every cancer patient’s disease is unique and therefore every cancer survivor’s needs are likely to be unique too, meaning that the diversity of needs must drive more personalisation and tailoring of subsequent care.

Recent campaigns and advertisements symbolise a heroic battle against cancer but if you have been left with facial disfigurement, a colostomy bag, or clinical depression, it is difficult to be a hero every day for the rest of your life.

It isn’t enough to say we will cure cancer, if we cannot find better ways to support people through the aftermath.

The Report is currently in print.