In May last year, ex-Minister Tessa Jowell found she could not speak. Two days later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

This is a clip from The Guardian showing her speaking in the House of Lords about what happened to her then  –

Her speak went on to highlight just what is needed to improve appalling cancer care in UK;  more help for other people with cancer: more shared knowledge, faster diagnosis, wider access to experimental treatments, better survival rates (and she emphasised we currently have the worst in western Europe) and for us all to be part of a “human-sized picture”, where the “community of love” created by patients was mirrored in the NHS.

Cancer gurus in Britain keep on citing our appalling treatment, but from the days confronting Andrew Lansley about our poor cancer survival rates, when he was Minister of State for Health, through to Jeremy Hunt, and today’s politicians who slavishly follow Central Office’s official pronouncements, politicians keep on about the NHS being envy of the world etc. etc. And ignoring that our survival statistics get worse.  Now Jowell has aired this in the House of Lords, perhaps Mrs. May, Dept. Health, Jeremy Hunt etc. will take note.

Exchanging information globally is easy
When it is so easy to exchange information globally, I could never  understand why British doctors don’t take note of what is being done in other countries.  During my treatment, I was lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the health system in Europe, and went abroad to get better treatment than I could obtain in Britain.  Because of my job, I was lucky enough to be able do this, but most British people have to put up with our poor care.  But when it is so easy to find out what is being done in other countries, one wonders why doctors don’t make more effort to exchange information.
My job had given me private health insurance, and reading between the lines it seems that Dame Tessa had been down this route too,  Public money has to be geared towards what has been tested to save us from snake oil and expensive false hope.  But, everyone deserves the best basic care that is available, and as The Guardian wrote “It was a cry from a woman who embodies the qualities she would like us all to seek”.
When I was treated abroad money seemed to be spent on the time doctors and nurses could give me, discussing my treatment and working out what would be best for me – not so often on expensive drugs.  Yet in Britain I would be handed a packet of pills, told to take them, and NEVER given any indication of possible side effects – or what to do when these happened, and never was time given to discussing what might be side effects before they happened.

Eventually, about half of us will get cancer.  Hopefully, after Baroness Jowell’s rousing speech, the powers-that-be might look towards suppressing their inflated egos and take note of what is being done in other countries.

I was treated with far more dignity, understanding and compassion abroad, than the assembly line care we find in Britain.  I well remember a senior British CNS informing me “you are only a patient”, when I tried to take her time to enquire why I was experiencing horrible side effects, and what could be done to mitigate them. Never, ever was I treated with such indifference and arrogance in Europe.   

So let’s hope Dame Tessa’s impassioned plea in the House of Lords is acted on, and we have more dialogue with doctors abroad.  Not not leave problems to be brushed under the ever-billowing carpet of indifference ever-present at the Dept. Health.

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