With new research from Macmillan Cancer Support revealing that the number of people living with cancer in the UK has soared to nearly three million, Londoner Amanda Mahoney (48) shared her experiences of being treated by the capital’s already stretched cancer workforce.
Amanda, from Bromley, who is living with treatable but not curable breast cancer, said: “As a former nurse and a current metastatic breast cancer patient, I’m all too aware of the time pressures, the budget constraints and the targets that are impacting our cancer care workforce. The flagstones of my former profession – empathy, sympathy, a cup of tea and a friendly ear…that people-side has been lost. At the Trust where I’m treated, there’s only one, part-time secondary breast cancer nurse, so I’m managed, but there’s no time to support or comfort me. That’s why I turn to people like Macmillan.
“The NHS I see is under-resourced, under-staffed and stressed. You almost feel guilty for needing their help and reassurance. But they are working against phenomenally difficult circumstances. I’ve had a consultant call me long after clinic had finished and their shift should be over – clearly going above and beyond. As a patient and an ex-nurse, I know first-hand that you need to invest in your people, your workforce. Staff are suffering and the impact on patients can be even harder.”
The new analysis, which uses national cancer registry data, also shows that someone in London is diagnosed with cancer on average every 15 minutes, with Macmillan estimating that 3,300 Londoners will receive the life-changing news that they have cancer in the five-week election period, alone.
UK-wide, the charity predicts the number of people living with cancer will rise to almost 3.5 million by 2025.
Macmillan says this new data highlights the need for political parties to tackle the ‘perfect storm’ of rising numbers of people living with cancer amid staffing shortages and unprecedented pressures on NHS and social care professionals as a ‘day-one priority’.
The charity will today (Friday) target politicians descending on Cardiff, Wales, for the BBC Election Debate by parading two ten-foot-high digital billboards around the Welsh capital. These will be emblazoned with the real concerns of people living with cancer, alongside these never-seen-before figures. Macmillan created the billboards to bring the crucial staffing issue to the attention of senior party figures ahead of the televised head-to-head tonight.
Lynda Thomas, Macmillan Cancer Support’s Chief Executive, said: “More and more people are hearing the life-changing news that they have cancer, at a time when the NHS desperately needs additional doctors and nurses. Ultimately, this is whipping up a perfect storm which needs to be taken seriously as a day-one priority by party leaders.
“I constantly hear heart-breaking stories from patients who are so grateful for their healthcare professionals but often don’t want to add to their workload with their needs or concerns. We need decision makers across the UK to prioritise funding and put in place the right plans, to ensure we have a cancer workforce fit for purpose both now and in the future.”