Every month we hold a Governing Body meeting in public where our clinicians, NHS managers and lay members make key organisational decisions that can impact on health services used by hundreds of thousands of Doncaster patients.
We try and start each meeting with a patient experience story. It’s an opportunity for a patient to give us their views- good and bad - on the NHS services that affect them. We listen, learn and try and make changes based on the powerful stories we hear. At our July meeting last week members listened to a cancer ‘survivor’ talking about her experiences and we have taken note of the comments she made.
What seems great to me is that the term ‘cancer survivor’ is gaining currency, especially in Doncaster where we are battling hard to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease. Early diagnosis means early access to curative treatment, which gives people a real chance of beating the disease. It’s not so long ago that cancer was referred to as the Big C and often mentioned in whispers. Now we have Doncaster people talking about how they have become a cancer survivor. It’s fantastic and a real step forward in helping to get people talking about the signs and symptoms to look out for. Currently more than 10,000 Doncaster people are living with a cancer diagnosis. By 2030 we expect that figure to be nearer 25,000. That illustrates how more and more local people are benefiting from having the treatment they need to beat the disease. In Doncaster we are becoming a beacon of cancer survivorship thanks to the excellent work being carried out by Macmillan Cancer Support, which in the past three years has invested over £800,000 in services to help cancer survivors and it will soon be £1 million. The term ‘people affected by cancer’ is also used by Macmillan, as this covers survivors and their loved ones.
Macmillan is driving forward the Doncaster Cancer Survivorship initiative, supported by NHS organisations like ours, Doncaster Council and the local voluntary sector. The aim is help the survivors address the many challenges they face in their lives after being treated for a serious, potentially life-changing illness like cancer. They have told us what’s important to them as cancer survivors and carers and have taken strategic roles within Doncaster Cancer Survivorship to influence and shape changes in how support is delivered. They have more than a voice, they have many voices, with survivors taking it in turns on a rotational basis to chair the meetings.
As a GP and chair of the organisation responsible for organising and funding local cancer services I know know how important it is to listen and learn from patients ‘who have been there’. Nobody knows better than they do about what is important in life. We remain as committed to helping them post treatment as we are from their initial diagnosis.
* Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group