The Policy and Campaigns team, alongside four amazing supporters living with secondary breast cancer, Anna, Claire, Gillian and Natasha, met with the Labour shadow health team last week for a roundtable event.
This roundtable was a fantastic opportunity for our supporters to make sure secondary breast cancer is a priority for the shadow health team, inspiring them to take a stand on the key issues and push the Government to do the same.
Who are the Shadow Health Team?
The Shadow Health Team are the opposition to the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, responsible for challenging and scrutinizing their policies and offering alternative solutions.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jonathan Ashworth MP, and the Shadow Minister for Public Health and Patient Safety, Alex Norris MP, attended our roundtable event.
What happened at the event?
Anna, Claire, Gillian and Natasha shared their personal experiences to illustrate the issues experienced by people living with secondary breast cancer, raising awareness about the need for better data collection and to improve access to treatment and support. Here is what each of them had to say:
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of the secondary breast cancer roundtable with the shadow health team. I am a passionate advocate for patient voices being heard, and we were not only heard but really listened to. I was able to highlight how we all hope for new and better treatment options, and with those options comes hope.
But these new drugs need to come faster and be available more widely, and that can only happen if there is more funding for research and for the cost of drugs. I felt that my thoughts and experiences were valued and valuable, something that can be difficult to find when you have secondary breast cancer.
It was a privilege to be able to be involved with the roundtable event and be able to share my experience and advocate on behalf of others who have secondary breast cancer. I felt the MPs listened compassionately and it was heartening to hear that they are already aware of some of the resource issues surrounding cancer services in general.
I hope that the opportunity to share my story has made some small impact in getting the importance and awareness of secondary breast cancer specifically on the government’s agenda, in order to improve the services and experiences that people have when living with this life-limiting condition.
It was good to speak to the shadow health team about what it means to live with secondary breast cancer. The MPs were very respectful to all of us that took part, listening hard to our experiences and seeming to genuinely care about the issues we face. It was good to be heard.
On the campaigning front, it was great to have the chance to explain in more detail the impacts of not having accurate numbers of patients living with secondary breast cancer.
Jonathan Ashworth agreed that more needed to be done to push forward with the Secondary Breast Cancer data audit. He said that, 'In matters of policy you only make progress on the things that get measured,' which is why he committed to helping as much as he could in holding the government accountable for the improvements in data collection that need to be made.
It was a great opportunity for me to be invited along to the roundtable and to be able to share my experiences with the MPs and Breast Cancer Now. It is so important for those in healthcare with the ability to push change to understand what it's really like to live with a secondary cancer and not just see it as a list of statistics and numbers.
I hope our discussions will lead to getting this high up on an agenda so crucial issues are addressed right now and not in years and years, and getting our voices heard is such an important step toward this.
We have asked the Shadow Health team to write to Sajid Javid, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to enquire about the progress on addressing issues faced by secondary breast cancer patients. We also asked them to write to Lord Bethell, Innovations Minister, specifically on issues relating to access to secondary breast cancer drugs, such as the NICE Methods Review.
We hope the powerful testimonies of Anna, Claire, Gillian and Natasha, will continue to make the shadow health team hold the Government to account on the key issues affecting people living with the disease.
If you’d like to find out more about our work with MPs and understand how our supporters help us to create positive change for people affected by breast cancer, sign up to our campaign mailing list.