Talking About The Big ‘C’…

Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. That’s almost one thousand people who, today, will be given the life-changing news that they have cancer.

Amazing advances in medicine mean that increasingly these diagnoses are not a death sentence. They may mean that treatment is required; lives are put on hold, families weighted down with worry and lives generally turned upside down. But, in spite of that, people are now beginning to live with cancer rather than die from it and, just this year, a public debate emerged about whether it would now be appropriate to use the word ‘cure’ in relation to cancer, rather than the more commonly-used ‘remission’.

Living with cancer has all kinds of implications – psychologically, physically and financially. It impacts on individuals and their families in all kinds of ways – some of which are seen and some of which are invisible to others. We know that clinical treatment of the illness is just one part of the journey. The support made available to patients at various points throughout their treatment is often just as crucial in determining how well people are able to live with illness and the upheaval that it can bring to their lives.

Cancer can affect almost any part of the body and the variety of treatments and support services available are truly diverse. This year in Essex we are recruiting a network of cancer ambassadors to help shape services from their perspective. Professionals within healthcare can build the services that they think best meets the needs of cancer patients but without the input of people who have lived with the illness, or are currently receiving treatment, we know those services will never be as effective or successful as they could be.

At Healthwatch Essex, we would really like to hear from you if you live in Mid or South Essex and have either received a cancer diagnosis within the last five years or are caring for someone who has. As an ambassador you could sit on Cancer Patient Forums giving your input into new proposals; helping other patients navigate and understand cancer services as well as sharing your own, and others’ experiences. All of this will be used to directly inform policy and service provision in Essex so it’s a very important role. If you think this is something you would be interested in doing email [email protected].

It is vital that patient experience sits at the heart of how we design services in the NHS and, in a separate recruitment drive, we are also looking for ambassadors in the same area (Mid and South Essex) who have had recent experience of maternity services and would be interested in using those to help influence the treatment and support prospective mothers receive in the county. Both of the roles are voluntary and full details of them can be found on our website here.

David Sollis

CEO Healthwatch Essex