Last week, we went to Parliament to deliver our secondary breast cancer petition to the Cancer Minister, Jo Churchill MP. The petition, signed by over 71,000 people calls for improved treatment and care for people living with the disease.
Handing in the petition
Accompanied by some of the incredible women from our Secondary Breast Cancer Campaign group, we met with the Cancer Minister at the Department of Health to hand-in the petition. We also had the opportunity to raise some of the key issues people with secondary breast cancer face, such as access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), access to treatments and delays in diagnosis.
Campaigners meet their MPs
Prior to meeting the Cancer Minister, several of our campaigners met with their MPs in Parliament. This presented an opportunity for the campaigners to share their experience of secondary breast cancer and help raise the profile of secondary breast cancer in parliament. It was also a chance for them to raise any local issues relating to secondary breast cancer with their MP.
We provided MPs a list of asks following the meetin. These were to write to their nearest NHS Trust to find out how many people with secondary breast cancer fall under the Trust’s care, and to write to their Cancer Alliance to ask what they are doing to meet the commitments of the NHS Long-Term Plan that everyone diagnosed with cancer, including those with secondary cancers have access to a CNS.
One of the MPs, Rishi Sunak (the new Chancellor of the Exchequer), has already agreed to write to the NHS Trust in his area.
Meeting the Cancer Minister
During the meeting, the campaigners spoke of their experiences of living with secondary breast cancer. By sharing their own stories, they helped to illustrate the problems that many people with secondary face.
A key point of discussion was that we still don’t know how many people are living with secondary breast cancer in the UK. If data on diagnosis and treatment of secondary breast cancer is not being routinely collected by hospitals, commissioners and healthcare providers are not able to identify their local patient population’s needs and plan services effectively to meet them.
We explained the importance of being able to have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist and the impact that support can have for those living with secondary breast cancer, both for their physical and psychological wellbeing. We raised the point that many still do not have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist.
We also raised the issue of delays in diagnosis for secondary breast cancer and how this could be addressed through providing better information on the signs and symptoms of the disease given to people who have finished treatment for primary breast cancer, as well as support for GPs to help them diagnose cases sooner.
At the meeting’s conclusion we asked the Minister to work with NHS England, Public Health England and others, to provide a written response to all of the recommendations made in our recent report on secondary breast cancer.
Finishing the day with some cream tea in the House of Lords
Following the meeting with the Minister we capped off the day with a trip to the House of Lords for some cream tea. Hosted by our Chief Executive, Delyth Morgan, this allowed a chance to reflect on the day’s events and consider actions to take going forward. It was also an opportunity to thank all of the campaigners for coming to Parliament and making their voices heard on secondary breast cancer.
As we await the Minister’s response to the recommendations in our report, we can look forward to the opening of the second phase of the campaign which will focus on access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist.
Following our meetings with the Cancer Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health, we are trying to secure meetings with Ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland.
As well as our meetings with top politicians, we’ve also been doing lots behind the scenes to improve things for people with secondary breast cancer. You can read more about what we’ve be up to here.
A huge thank you to our incredible campaigners for coming to Parliament and making their voices heard on secondary breast cancer.
Thank you to everybody who signed or shared the petition. We wouldn’t be able to secure meetings like this without your support – you’re helping to put secondary breast cancer on the political agenda.
Find out more about our campaign for secondary breast cancer.