Lord Darzi said it: “Cancer Care in England compares poorly with that in other European Countries

Writing in The Telegraph, the ex-Minister for Health and noted cancer specialist said “cancer care in England compares poorly with that in other European countries ,,,,,, we are not getting good value for money”.

That’s rich – coming from someone who, when he was in Government, could have organised for the NHS to link up with European hospitals and copy what they are doing.  But instead he is out urging us to vote to stay in Europe at the Referendum, and keep providing a cash pot to Brussels that would be better spent on the NHS, rather than supporting some of Brussels’ funding.

I did a lot of EU-funded work in Brussels and around Europe, but it always worried me that no-one seemed to be keeping an eye on what I spent the funding on.  And locals spent funding with abandon, not caring that it was EU taxpayers money that was paying for a project; it would have been better to have had less lavish funding, but provided by locals so they valued what was on offer.

Drugs

Interestingly Darzi went on to say that in 2014 we spent more on drugs than most EU countries, but “these were fewer new drugs …..  we lag behind in our use of modern treatments”.

Interestingly, when I went to Europe for treatment, I was never offered drugs.  Instead, I was treated with common sense, by doctors and nurses whose understanding was top notch.  There was no nonsense about ‘patient-centred’  ‘dignity’ ‘putting the patient first’ and all the other buzz phrases designed to show the ‘caring’ side of the NHS. Instead, care for the patient is taken as read in Europe, and doctors are left to get on with treating us in the best way possible; not waste their time completing ‘tasks’ or filling out forms.

Long term side effects from cancer drugs

In Europe I found there is a much better understanding of side effects, and how to treat them. Here, Macmillan Cancer Support warns that lack of post-diagnosis support is putting ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.

A new report, Cancer Cash Crisis (CCC), warns that a lack of post-diagnosis support for people living with cancer is putting increased pressure on overstretched A&E departments, as the health service faces another winter of high demand.

As Alice said, “the build-up of toxins still in my body suddenly decided to erupt one weekend.  In A & E staff cut off my Jaeger dress (£350), too busy to undo the buttons all down the front!  And there I stayed, covered in vomit, until I was sent home 18 hours later.  Still unwashed,  Uggh. But cancer survivors are often an embarrassment, and we feel we should be out of sight”.

CCC’s report reveals the often life-long costs associated with supporting the growing number of people living with cancer. The charity calls for an end to the current ‘dysfunctional’ one-size-fits-all approach to cancer after-care which often fails to help those who have ended up with a poor quality of life.

The charity urges the government to fully fund and implement the cancer strategy for England, warning that ‘choosing to do nothing will only increase costs’ in years to come.

So why all the men?

Our local support group offers an ‘Expert Patient’ programme, to help deal with the aftermath of treatment.  Designed to help us navigate the post-cancer treatment minefield out there, I signed up.  The first session found myself with one other woman in the group – and nine men (sort of odds I like!)

During treatment I often went to the prostate cancer web forum, where men posted in-depth questions about drug side effects:  these often related to the drugs I was on, and offered helpful comments and advice. Posting a query on this website elicited a spate of sensible replies;  yet posting the same question on one of the breast cancer produced zero replies – but lots on the lines of “how does everyone feel today” .

Charity Funding

As women, we are excellent at caring, but often don’t ask for ourselves.  Without being sexist, perhaps men think more about where their taxes go, and look for better value for money from the NHS.  So instead of meekly accepting the way we are ignored – next time you get a request from your favourite charity to raise funds, just ask what proportion will be going to support those of us with long term conditions.

 

To read Cancer Cash Crisis, please follow this link: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Campaigns/Cancercashcrisisreport-MacmillanDecember2015.pdf

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