Is the NHS getting it all wrong?

 During my cancer treatment, I was constantly offered Counselling sessions. Doctor after doctor asked “would you like Counselling?” until it became embarrassing to refuse, so I accepted.

What I really needed was help with handling multiple appointments.  Some Common-sense with negotiating this minefield would have been constructive, but no … it wasn’t available.

So I went to my first Counselling appointment; a charming young man suggested I settle back in a reclining chair, and focus on what dreams did I have?

When I suggested that my dream was for a seamless treatment path, it became obvious we had different agendas. I tried to be polite, and listen with an open mind, but we were on a different pathway.  I did try to relate to what he was telling me, but I wasn’t prepared to sit back and accept that I couldn’t expect to have treatment immediately – there were too many hurdles to jump – and counselling wasn’t going to help me get what I needed.

Questions about “how do you feel?”, frankly, made me fume.  I needed treatment, so let’s get on with it. I got the giggles, upended my recliner and landed on the floor, and that was the end of my Counselling session. I could see benefits for many, but this wasn’t for me.


However, certain cancer patients can benefit from Counselling, but this is not a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, and doctors need to assess if this therapy is right for YOU.  Paul’s Cancer Support Centre in Battersea says the benefits of counselling include:

  • alleviating feelings of loneliness
  • increasing the ability to communicate, improving relationships
  • promoting the deeper understanding of emotions
  • increasing a sense of control
  • providing a fresh perspective and tapping into creativity
  • reducing tension and stress
  • putting people in touch with their resources of imagination and intuition
  • helping people to find meaning in what is happening to them

But this is not a substitute for medical care for handling physical side effects, such as heart problems, neuropathy, skin problems etc.

Help that could be copied

Dr. Cordelia Galgut has published a little ‘handbag-sized’ booklet “Emotional Support Through Breast Cancer“.  It’s full of sensible comments, and when I am at the end of my tether and about to grind my teeth to oblivion, I flip through its pages, and they manage to calm me down and defuse the situation.  It’s helpful to know that others are being driven mad – I am not alone!  Available on Amazon.

My generation has difficulties enough to find appropriate help, but younger people often have even more of a struggle, but those living in South London now have a helpful centre, Off the Record, able to offer advice. As they reconsidered their traditional counselling services for young people, staff at Off the Record also began to question what they called the ‘conveyor-belt model’ for delivering health and care services.

They asked whether it was useful to follow rigid pathways of care for people struggling with unique personal problems. They also asked whether it was useful to follow a ‘referral-assessment-treatment-discharge model when supporting people with cyclical and in some cases long-term conditions. Rather than a service model, they created something that was more like a membership organisation or a club.

Instead of following rigid pathways, young people might attend a drop-in hub, participate in peer-led workshops, join a project group, or start running projects of their own. Some young people drop in to Off the Record a few times. Others remain part of its community for years.

More info:

Follow this

This youth charity seems to be client-led, and flexible enough to provide what is wanted by the majority.  Perhaps more could be done on these lines to address our physical as well as psychlogical needs – and provide support where it is needed.

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