THE fact that so many cancer patients “at breaking point” would rather suffer in silence than ask overstretched doctors to explain treatment plans, or answer sensitive questions, is not a true reflection of the empathy, or humanity, of NHS staff.
It is indicative of the pressures facing consultants because the recruitment of senior staff has simply not kept pace with demand for healthcare.
Most families touched by cancer have nothing but praise for the NHS – or the comfort provided by charities, like Macmillan Cancer Support, who reveal today a significant increase in people calling its support line because they don’t want to add to the workload of their doctor.
And while this report will be dismissed by Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, with his now characteristic bumptiousness, he should be heeding, and respecting Macmillian’s warning, even more so at a time when there is growing angst at the increased length of time that newly-diagnosed cancer patients are having to wait for treatment.
Put simply, these shortcomings would be a far greater national scandal if it wasn’t for the care and compassion of Macmillan nurses, the hospice movement and all those charities who do much to support patients, and their relatives, at times of great personal trauma.
Their benevolence, and the ongoing support that they receive from the wider public, must never be taken for granted by complacent Ministers like Mr Hancock whose default position is simply to say that delays, and treatment, will be even worse under Labour.
It can’t continue like this. Mr Hancock has failed to advance social care reform since his appointment nearly two years ago; A&E waiting times are at record levels – and now Macmillan has gone public with its misgivings about the provision of cancer care. As such, the question is this – just what will it take for the Minister to do his job?