The issue around the NHS pay increase is yet another worrying sign that the NHS has been taken for granted and the enormous strain that many healthcare professionals are still under has been completely overlooked.
Many of us cannot begin to imagine the unspeakably difficult circumstances NHS staff have continued to work in throughout the pandemic.
Over the past year, our healthcare professionals have faced enormous pressures, some have been redeployed, others have been bought back from retirement, all in an effort to treat the ever-present Covid-19 pandemic as well as trying to keep vital services like cancer care continuing.
We will continue to support our NHS partners across Yorkshire. Almost 800 cancer care professionals in the region are part of the Macmillan family – we cannot let them down by undervaluing their efforts over the last year.
Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, we can’t overlook that Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on cancer care, with tens of thousands of cancer patients facing agonising disruption to diagnosis and treatment, and experiencing increased anxiety about their survival, as a result.
At least 150,000 people have been newly diagnosed with cancer in the UK in the past year, with many having to hear this devastating news for the first time with no-one by their side.
Recent Macmillan analysis also suggests tens of thousands of people across the UK are missing a cancer diagnosis they would otherwise have received, because of the impact of the pandemic.
Last year, Macmillan stepped in to help ease the pressure on our NHS services. We funded 14 new roles in cancer services across Yorkshire as part of our Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund to ensure the continuation of cancer services at a time when the pandemic was disrupting the care and treatment of so many.
We listened to what was needed, and where it was needed, to ensure people could still expect personalised cancer care and support.
These vital roles included two Macmillan Palliative Care End of Life Co-ordinators at Airedale Hospital. They provided urgently needed additional capacity and specialist expertise to the end of life care team.
These professionals bridged the gap between patients at end of life and their families who were not able to be with them on the ward through the pandemic. They ensured people received dignity at the end of their lives, nothing less than we would all expect for our loved ones.
Enormous challenges lie ahead for cancer care, and a properly resourced and supported NHS workforce will be required to tackle these.
We should be building our workforce up, supporting them through the trauma of the last year and importantly rewarding them for the work they do.
This is about more than money.
Salaries reflect one part of a wider approach to recruiting and retaining staff including flexible working, learning and development opportunities and wellbeing support.
I’m concerned that many talented and dedicated professionals will choose to leave the profession as the strain and enormity of the past year catches up with them.
Without an urgent boost to train and recruit more cancer staff, or funding to tackle the challenges ahead, we risk cancer becoming the Forgotten C and the Government will be letting down both today’s patients and those for years to come.
The NHS urgently needs a long-term, fully-funded plan for the workforce with plans for the pay, recognition, training and retention of staff, so they can continue doing their very best for cancer patients for years to come.
The one per cent pay rise proposed by the Department for Health and Social Care is not a done deal and will be a political choice.
At Macmillan we are all too aware of the current economic landscape after experiencing the toughest year in the charity’s history, but we would urge the Government to think carefully about their decision on NHS pay and the effect it could have on an already demoralised and exhausted workforce.
This current situation around NHS pay does no one good and will bring little reassurance to people living with cancer.
At Macmillan, we will keep doing whatever it takes to ensure they do not feel forgotten in this crisis.
* Lynda Thomas is chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.
ANYONE in need of cancer support can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, which is open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, or visit Macmillan’s Online Community.
Those who are experiencing cancer symptoms should contact their GP as a matter of urgency.
Last year Macmillan Cancer Support lost over £1m in income across Yorkshire.
In response to this, Macmillan has launched the Yorkshire Appeal, which aims to raise additional funds to cover their emergency response and vital services that are needed to support the 179,000 people living with cancer in the region.
To find out how you can get involved or donate go to www.macmillan.org.uk/yorkshireappeal
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