By Nafisa Shk, a Macmillan Cancer Voice
On the 9th of September I was given the opportunity to attend the Macmillan Question Time 2015 at the house of parliament. Having never attended before, I was beyond excited about this opportunity, mainly because cancer has affected me and my family majorly. Having lost my mother 3 years ago to cancer, I decided to dedicate my time and effort being involved in campaigning with Macmillan. The event itself was designed to put forward some key points for the MPs to follow upon. We the people however played a vital role in not just asserting these points, but also using our own experience with cancer to convince the panel on why these issues are paramount. The aim of this event was to give a platform to people affected by cancer, Cancer Voices and Health Care Professionals from different backgrounds to discuss the most vital parts of their journey and what needs changing.
Macmillan’s desires four essential points to be put into action:
- Integrate local services and share best practice across the NHS by creating new boards of local experts, commissioners, and patients called Cancer Alliances
- Improve life after treatment by fully-funding a five-year Living with and Beyond Cancer Programme which will roll out new initiatives to improve support. An example would be Macmillan’s Recovery Package which measures quality of life for people living with and beyond cancer to understand how they should be supported
- To recruit more staff for in-demand roles such as Clinical Nurse Specialists; as well as make sure staff have the right skills, training, and behaviour; that they deliver high-quality care; and support carers
- Introduction of new measure of patient experience to drive improvements in care more generally.
The panel was headed by Television Presenter Martyn Lewis and consisted of three MPs representing the three main parties: Jo Churchill (the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds), Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat MP), Luciana Berger (British Labour Co-operative MP) and Macmillan’s Chief Executive Lynda Thomas. Lynda made a very crucial point about how Cancer does not have to be a life sentence and how important it is to give support to people post cancer, particularly going back to work and living a normal life. Most importantly, Lynda resonated what most of us affected by cancer hope for, achieving better cancer outcomes by working on preventive measures first.
The point I most related to was to deliver high quality care by recruiting more staff and providing up to date training for the right skills, and the support for carers. Personally, as my Mother’s carer I could relate to why it’s necessary that carers are given the care and support they deserve. The stress and effects of cancer can affect not just the patient, but the whole family particularly the carers. Amidst being an advocate for my Mother’s cancer, and her treatment, me and my Sister who also was also a carer for my mom, had to deal with a lot of mixed emotions. I felt the care and the support we expected from the system was not enough. Carers need to feel safe and protected, given the right amount of resources and training to get through this time in their lives.
The main aspect of this event I noticed was how much freedom we the people were given. This not just included the close interaction between the members and the cancer voice who attended, but most importantly, the chance to meet and communicate our thoughts and experiences with various local MPs. There were no barriers of any kind, be it emotional or professional. We were given an opportunity to lay the forefront issues concerning our individual experiences facing cancer and its consequences. For instance, I got the opportunity to speak candidly about my experience of my family’s cancer journey during the time my Mother got diagnosed with Robin Walker, the Conservative Party MP representing the Worcester constituency. Robin listened to all of us patiently, giving back suggestions and ideas of his own explaining his own personal experience with cancer.
All in all, being a Cancer Voice with Macmillan is something I would highly recommend anyone with a passion to fight this disease. Macmillan’s has a brilliant team, and the ability to bring together people from different backgrounds and cultures, campaigning and advocating for a cause that unites everyone. I have in the past attended many of their events, and have always been treated with utmost kindness and respect. The thing that struck me the most at the Question time event was how everyone was given a chance to tell their story. The Public Affairs team were highly trained, and knowledgeable, but most importantly compassionate and good listeners.
What question would you have asked our panel?