I was asked by Michelle Gallacher, the communications officer for Scotland's MacMillan Cancer Support, to promote their latest campaign. Yesterday they launched the campaign which is calling for an overhaul of cancer services to cope with massive increases in the number of people surviving the illness. I couldn't refuse.
The following is their full press release.
SCOTS CANCER PATIENT FILM DEMANDS
BETTER POST TREATMENT CARE
SCOTS cancer patients are backing calls for an overhaul of NHS services to cope with massive increases in the number of people surviving the disease.
The patients feature in a short film launched by leading charity Macmillan Cancer Support, an organisation that says reform is urgently needed to cope with the growing population of cancer survivors.
There are currently two million cancer survivors in the UK – 180,000 in Scotland – and this number is set to double within the next 20 years*.
Patients often feel abandoned after their hospital treatment has ended and many develop long term emotional, psychological and physical problems that seriously affect their quality of life. Reform is needed as the current system does not meet patients’ long term needs.
As well as helping to get the lives of cancer survivors back on track, Macmillan say transforming care after cancer treatment could free up NHS resources by, for instance, reducing the need for unnecessary follow-up hospital appointments.
To highlight the issue, the charity has launched a one-minute film called Change Cancer Care Today.
Among those who feature in the film is father-of-two Alan Clarke, of Newton Mearns, who is recovering from a diagnosis of head and neck cancer.
In the video, the 44-year-old says: “Treatment is the easy part of cancer. Living with it is the hard part. Treatment for me took six months, living with it is going to take forty years.
“As soon as the treatment finishes the NHS is finished with you and pushes you back into society. That’s when the real stress and pressure begins.”
The film’s aim is to encourage people to join Macmillan’s e-campaign and flag up these issues to Scottish Parliament candidates in advance of elections in May.
The charity, which is celebrating its centenary year, hopes the video campaign will help persuade the next Scottish Parliament to commit to ensuring that every cancer patient has access to services that can support them in the long term.
Macmillan’s director for Scotland, Elspeth Atkinson, said: “While it is good news that more people are surviving a cancer diagnosis, it is vital that our health system is able to support them.
“Much more needs to be done to ensure that these growing numbers of people are given the support they need to cope with a cancer diagnosis or the consequences of its treatment.
“We know one in five people living after cancer treatment will develop long-term emotional, psychological and physical problems. These issues seriously affect quality of life but also lead to unnecessary illness that can result in hospital readmission.
“If patients are equipped with information so that they know when they need to see a health professional or when they may need a diagnostic test, this will reduce the need for unnecessary follow-up hospital appointments.
“This, in turn, will free up resources which can be reinvested in the care of patients with complex needs and in new long term support services for people who have survived cancer.”
In the video, Macmillan is also calling on the next Scottish Parliament to ensure that every patient has access to a clinical nurse specialist from the time they are diagnosed.
These skilled nurses are responsible for coordinating patient care and making sure patients have access to personalised information, advice and support. They are also the key to a more efficient cancer service.
Teenager Megan McLaughlin also took part in the video, stressing that she didn’t think she’d be able to cope with her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma without the help of her clinical nurse specialist.
The 18-year-old, of Greenock, said: “I was so lucky that I had a Macmillan nurse. She was always only one phone call away.”
A cancer diagnosis is also a time of great uncertainty and anxiety and patients often have questions and concerns. They are also likely to be too ill to work and so money becomes a real worry at a time when their daily living expenses may increase.
This is why Macmillan is also calling for patients to receive routine access to the information and benefits advice they might need.
Carol Morrison, 45, of Greenock, who also features in the video, said: “As soon as I found out I had cancer I had to give my work up right away. I actually couldn’t keep up with my bills and I was finding it very, very difficult.
“When you are ill, you haven’t got the same concentration and, because you’re feeling sick, you don’t feel like filling forms in. But sitting talking to someone and them doing it for you is an awful lot easier.
“I don’t know how I would have coped if I didn't have a Macmillan advisor. I just wish that everyone can get that type of support.”
To find out more, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/scottishelection.
Access to financial support:
Macmillan has established a network of benefits advice services across Scotland. We are calling on the next Scottish Government to help us to ensure every cancer patient has access to financial help. These advisers help people affected by cancer identify and apply for welfare benefits and charitable grants they may be entitled to.
Access to information and support:
A cancer diagnosis brings with it all kinds of questions, uncertainties and anxieties and Macmillan has established services to help people to find the right information and support at this difficult time. We will be developing these services further throughout the next year.
Macmillan is calling on every patient to have a comprehensive and regular assessment of all their support needs and for systems to be established so that patients are referred to these services if appropriate.
The Scottish Parliament elections will take place on 5 May.
*Internal analysis by Intelligence & Research, Corporate Development Directorate, Macmillan Cancer Support. Analysis based on Maddams J, et al. Cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom: estimates for 2008. British Journal of Cancer. 2009. 101: 541-547
2011 is Macmillan Cancer Support’s centenary. For 100 years Macmillan has been providing medical, emotional, practical and financial support to people affected by cancer. For cancer support at home, over the phone, call the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm).