Week 23- Why we should all be angry

I have been mulling over this post for a few weeks now, as some of you will be able to testify. I didn’t want to come across being hubristic, but given what is about to happen in the UK, there seems to be no time like the present to discuss the standards of care available when it comes to cancer treatment. 

 I have been spurred on by this article in The Independent where a conservative MP, Chris Philp commented that survival rates from cancer have ‘increased dramatically’, and that is what people care about, not how long they have to wait for treatment. 

I might survive, but will you?…

Ho hum.  Ho hum indeed.  It would be interesting to know where he has got his cancer survival rate data from.  Cancer survival rates have no doubt gone up, but so have they in pretty much every other country in the world.  The reality is that I am luckier than most of you reading this page are, because I live in France.  When it comes to breast cancer, my chances of survival, according to the latest statistics are 86.9%, the fifth highest of recorded countries in the world, yours in the UK are 81.1%, the 27th highest. 

That is a 5.8% greater chance of me staying alive if diagnosed with breast cancer in France than in the UK.  To put it another way, every year there are an average of 55,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer reported in the UK.  Out of those, based on the statistics above, 10,985 of those women will die, whereas if they were in France, an extra 3,754 of those women would still be alive. Let that sink in for a moment- three thousand seven hundred and fifty-four more women would be alive today if they were treated for breast cancer in France rather than in the UK.

The system in France is far from perfect, but it is also not the same postcode lottery as regards healthcare currently present in the UK.  How can it be right that in one postcode area, someone is entitled to two rounds of IVF to develop their family, whilst in another, after one round of IVF you have to pay £8,000 for the same privilege?  It is not right and it should not be acceptable. 

Taking ownership of your healthcare…

As for Mr Philps’ assertion that cancer patients do not really care if they have to wait longer for treatment, I would beg to differ.  In my previous post I spoke about the difference in speed between obtaining scan results in France versus the UK.  Here they are immediate, within a couple of hours because there is a radiologist on site who, for some reason trusts that you, as a patient, are capable of hearing results related to your healthcare. By five o’clock that evening, those results are available for you and your oncologist to download. 

In the UK, this scan is taken, then sent to a radiologist, who then sends it to an oncologist who then books an appointment with you to tell you what is going on. On average, it takes between three to four weeks to get these test results.  But hey, who cares right? Cancer patients really don’t care if they have to wait longer for treatment.  I mean, let’s not worry about those patients living with stage 4 terminal cancer, who are treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or whatever other therapy to limit the growth of their tumours until such times as those treatments don’t work anymore and then they are put onto another treatment, and another one, until simply nothing works anymore. 

Treatment waiting lists don’t matter…

They don’t care, do they, that the scan showing that their treatment is no longer working is going to take four weeks to get back to them, by which time their tumour(s) will have grown to God knows what size all because their treatment is taking place 19 miles across a body of water from somewhere where they can get those scan results within a couple of hours. 

How can, in any modern society that be deemed acceptable? Personally, I don’t think it is or should be.  The NHS is broken, of that there is no doubt, but it isn’t just a case of needing huge injections of cash, it needs complete reformation.  Huge swathes of administration for administration’s sake need to be removed.  Healthcare workers are not only having to work as if their hands are tied behind their backs, but as if they are in straight-jackets. It truly has become an impossible situation.

There also needs to be a cultural shift into allowing patients to take responsibility for their own healthcare., and if you can’t remove healthcare from politics, then remove politics from healthcare- the person living in Sunderland needs to know that they can get the same level and rights of care as the person in SW10. 

Rant over. 

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