It was my honour to set up and be elected to chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer in June 2016, and to be re-elected to this position in July 2017.
In this role I’ve worked closely with charities including Bloodwise, and liaised with medical professionals, Government ministers as well as patients and their support groups.
This is a personal issue for me and one which has affected my own family and others in Crawley, I’m grateful to local residents who have shared their own experiences with me.
On 17th January 2018 our Group launched its first report, entitled ‘The ‘Hidden’ Cancer: The Need to Improve Blood Cancer Care’. This coincided with a debate in Westminster Hall which I secured for the same day, on the issue of blood cancer care in the NHS.
The report makes a number of recommendations including that GPs should immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer. These can be vague, with patients often reporting general fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, or bruising, all of which can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions such as being run down or flu.
It concludes that the Government’s 2015 Cancer Strategy could do more to support blood cancer patients and that too many patients feel let down by present systems.
The APPG report also recommends:
- NHS England should ensure psychological and emotional support is available to patients and families from the point of diagnosis and throughout treatment. This is particularly important for patients put on Watch and Wait treatment programmes, and not given treatment straight away.
- All blood cancer patients to be assigned to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (one in 10 patients do not have a CNS).
- Better joined up working between primary and secondary health services, and between oncology and haematology teams.
Please click here to read the report in full.
While our first inquiry has concluded, this is only the start of our Group’s work to stand up for blood cancer patients and their support networks
Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and this country’s third biggest cancer killer. There are currently an estimated 240,000 people in the UK living with blood cancers, which include leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Research from Bloodwise, who also provide secretariat support for the Group, has shown that public awareness of blood cancer is low and that patients often feel isolated and believe these cancers are seen as ‘separate’ from other cancers.
I’m delighted to be joined by colleagues from across the political spectrum in both the House of Commons and Lords as we continue to stand up for blood cancer patients and identify ways where we can do better for patients and their families.
This is a cause I’ve raised with Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions, and one which I’m continuing to pursue. In November 2018, I secured and led a House of Commons debate where I called for improvements in support for issues affecting blood cancer patients including access to treatments, mental health provision and GP services.
In January 2019, following the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan, I questioned the Health & Social Care Secretary about the importance of continuing to work with charities and the wider voluntary sector to deliver improved outcomes for patients.