Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

OPAAL Exhibits at National Cancer Patient Conference

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On Friday 13th March Angela Clarkson Volunteer Coordinator from Sefton Pensioners’ Advocacy Centre  and I had the great pleasure of displaying the work of the National Cancer Older People and Advocacy programme at the National Cancer Patient Conference in Manchester. From the moment I entered the exhibition hall at 07:50 until the conference closed around 5.00 I was struck by the lively buzz and enthusiasm displayed by everyone, patients, speakers and those exhibiting their services. This conference catered for up to 300 delegates.

Our stall attracted a good many cancer patients, carers and friends all keen to learn how independent advocacy could help them manage the impact of cancer on their lives. Other professionals too came to chat and soon we were networking, exchanging contact information with commissioners as well as service providers who we look forward to working with in the near future.

Our display board with stories of older people affected by cancer

Our display board with stories of older people affected by cancer

We spoke to many people who wished they had know about this  service as they believed their loved one could have benefited. We also spoke to many others who wondered why they did not have this service in their area.

I was able to share some of this feedback with Mr Sean Duffy the National Clinical Director for Cancer NHS England. Sean was aware of the programme and was very pleased to endorse our work, in particular with Peer Volunteers. Like us he believes that the support of peers can be invaluable as they come from a position of knowledge and experience and often display great empathy towards others who find themselves in similar situations.

Sean as the keynote speaker spoke of the fact that we have a lot to be proud of, there are more patients treated, more patients surviving, better patient experience than ever before and greater use of effective treatments.

Sean Duffy with Kath Parson

Sean Duffy with Kath Parson

However he was clear when he said we have much more to do, close the survival gap with other countries; address continuing poor outcomes for some cancers; growing incidence; reduce cancer waiting times; address the financial context of cancer.

Sean also spoke of the 5 year forward view which contains:-

  • radical upgrade on prevention and public health
  • greater personal control
  • breaking down institutional barriers
  • new models of care
  • national leadership local flexibility
  • shared vision and partnership with voluntary sector (cancer is an exemplar)

Key challenges facing us include:-

  • Tackling late diagnosis
  • Supporting people living with cancer
  • Better support for older people

Promote a proactive approach to primary care – explore new models as in the 5 Year forward view, significantly shift early stage diagnosis from 56% to 66%, making earlier diagnosis happen, accelerate co-ordinate and evaluate our work programmes.

More people living longer is a good thing! But we need to ensure we support them to live well with recovery packages, rehabilitation and re-ablement programmes, better models of follow up and greater co-ordination with social care.

I was delighted to hear Sean talk of systems being designed around the needs of patients (not patients forced to adapt to the system).

One third of cancer diagnoses is now in 75+’s, half of all cancer deaths are in this age range. Sean referred to the Macmillan commissioned IPSOS Mori survey aimed at exploring how older people feel about their cancer, the attitudes they hold to treatment and care and what good care would look like. The OPAAL Cancer Older People and Advocacy programme is proud to be involved with this work and we look forward to making useful contributions.

Stuart Gibson Chair of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Partnership Group also displayed great interest. Having had cancer himself he is well aware of the impact on people when cancer enters one’s life.

Stuart Gibson with Kath Parson

Stuart Gibson with Kath Parson

I was able to attend a well attended very informative workshop on Improving the Quality of people’s ‘Experience of Care’ led by Lisa Edwards. Lisa is the Project Delivery Lead for the NHS Experience of Care project and spoke movingly of the lessons she had learned concerning talking to patients about what they wanted and what good care would look like for them. Lisa shared her vision of ensuring that patients’ experience of care is central to the commissioning and care delivery on offer to all. With many patients in the room we were able to learn about what matters most to people when we think about how to make the patient experience better. I left with a lot of food for thought I aim to share with colleagues to help shape our future independent advocacy programme.

During the day we were also able to contribute to the event video ensuring that Independent Advocacy retains a permanent place in material supporting better patient experience.

Angela Clarkson with the display stand

Angela Clarkson with the display stand

All in all Angela and I had a fantastic day, made all the more special by being able to listen to many cancer patients’ stories.

Kath Parson, Chief Executive, OPAAL

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Author: kathparson

Chief Executive of Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)

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