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Innovative Service Pledge programme celebrates 20 years of improving breast cancer patient experience

Leading charity Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge has brought together patients, healthcare professionals and Cancer Alliances over the last 20 years, to deliver improvements for everybody’s experience of breast cancer.

The innovative programme was created by the charity in 2003 in response to clinicians and patients highlighting a need for breast cancer services to be informed by patient experience.

The Service Pledge is the only breast cancer specific patient involvement and service improvement programme in the UK. The programme has supported over 140 breast cancer services across the UK to work in partnership with primary and incurable secondary breast cancer patients to design and deliver improvements. Over 400 improvements have been implemented in the past five years through the programme.

In the wake of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Service Pledge has a crucial role to play in future-proofing breast cancer services. With this disruption having led to increased demands on services, the programme offers support to breast cancer services as they adapt to changes, review how they can work most efficiently, and gather evidence to help plan staff numbers.

Following the modification of the Service Pledge model in 2019 to support working with Cancer Alliances and across both primary and secondary breast cancer care,1 the charity estimates that 7,510 breast cancer patients will have benefitted from experiencing improvements in their care thanks to the programme.2

The charity is now scaling up its Service Pledge activity with ambitions to deliver the programme with all Cancer Alliances in England, and to roll out a similar programme in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said:

“Having been involved at the start I’m incredibly proud of the transformative impact our Service Pledge programme has had on the experiences of thousands of people with breast cancer, and the huge positive difference it has made for patients at the already difficult time following a diagnosis.

“For 20 years this one-of-a-kind programme has been supporting Cancer Alliances, hospitals and patients to work collaboratively and discuss experiences, enabling everyone to work together and develop and deliver a wide range of improvements.

“Breast Cancer Now’s vision is that, by 2050, everyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer will live, and be supported to live well, and we know that ensuring all breast cancer patients receive personalised, high-quality treatment and care is the first key step to achieving this. That’s why we’re now striving to deliver the Service Pledge in all Cancer Alliances in England, and to roll it out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that people with breast cancer across the UK get the best care possible.”

Karen Gannon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and has been a patient advocate with Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge programme for 15 years. She said:

“Since my own diagnosis of breast cancer 16 years ago, I’m incredibly passionate about helping improve the experiences of patients. When I came across Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge shortly after finishing my treatment, I immediately signed up to be a volunteer patient advocate.

“I find it incredibly rewarding to support local patient representatives from each hospital signed up to the Service Pledge to share their experiences with the breast team and help them work together to make improvements. Having a partnership between patients and hospitals is invaluable and ensures the best care is available for breast cancer patients.

“Having been involved in every Service Pledge since 2007, I’ve seen it grow into the hugely respected and important programme it is today. The Service Pledge makes improvements that empower patients to feel fully supported and informed throughout their treatment and care – it really does change the lives of people affected by breast cancer.” 

Kim Collingridge, macmillan lead breast cancer clinical nurse specialist at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“I’ve been involved with Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge both in its early days and now in its 20th anniversary year and it remains such a unique and valuable programme, driving positive change across breast cancer services at our Trust. It is an excellent example of just what can be achieved through collaborative working.

“Not only does running the Service Pledge at our breast units enable us to gather valuable feedback from our patients, and work with them to develop informed, meaningful improvements for the services, it also gives our teams a deeper understanding of our patients’ perspectives and needs.”

The Service Pledge has helped hospitals to reduce waiting times, improve patient satisfaction and recruit dedicated secondary breast care nurses. Recent improvements have included:

  • Recruiting ‘cancer care navigators’ to offer patients further information and support as they go through treatment.3
  • Reviewing and updating photo resources for different types of surgery and reconstruction and ensuring all patients receiving surgery are given the opportunity to see the resources.4
  • Referring newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to Breast Cancer Now’s Here For You, service offering personalised and timely access to trusted information and specialist support.5

Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge 2022 – 2023 has been jointly sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company Limited and Roche Products Ltd. Lilly and Roche have not had any control or involvement with this programme.

To hear more about the Service Pledge and how Breast Cancer Now can support healthcare professionals contact


Notes to editors

  2. Breast Cancer Now calculations;
  3. Ipswich Hospital and Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, 2021-22
  4. Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Ipswich Hospital, Colchester Hospital, 2021-22
  5. Bedford Hospital, Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Colchester Hospital, Ipswich Hospital, 2021-22

For references 3 – 5, the Hospital Action Plans can be viewed at

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