Terminal cancer patient shares what she thinks would make support better for others.

A woman who has been battling cancer for over 20 years says that although care she has received from the NHS has been good, small changes would make a big difference to patients.

70-year-old Ginny Ring from Upton St Leonard’s near Gloucester, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and following treatment she was told she was in remission. 15 years later the breast cancer returned, and cancer then spread to her pelvis, spine, shoulder and neck.  In 2018 Ginny was told she only had five years to live.

Ginny – along with others affected by cancer – is being called upon to share her experience to inform changes to local health services.  The NHS Long Term Plan sets out the ways in which cancer care needs to improve.  Local NHS services now need to hear from their communities about what changes should look like where they live.

For more details on What Would You Do? visit: www.healthwatchgloucestershire.co.uk/project/nhs-long-term-plan.

“I have been fighting cancer for 21 years,” says Ginny.  “I have found it difficult but try my best to be as positive as I can be and I have learnt to live with my cancer as best as I can.  I always say that yes, I have got cancer but, it hasn’t got me!

“I admire the NHS so much, I have no grumbles whatsoever, apart from five things that I have found difficult.”

Ginny would like to see the following changes to local cancer services:

1. Waiting times for scan results.  This can be a very anxious wait for people, and can currently be very long.

2. The appointments system. This needs to be simpler and easier.  The oncologist’s secretary does not always answer the phone and sometimes the answer phone is not on and that can be very frustrating.  Last year I found getting an urgent referral to see a maxillofacial surgeon so difficult.

3. The oncology waiting room.  This can be a very depressing place when you are perhaps feeling well in remission and you are only having a six monthly check up.  You have to walk through there and wait for your appointment with cancer patients.  It’s hard, seeing very poorly people and it brings it all back again.

4. The décor and layout of the oncology department.  My local oncology department needs to change.  The way the waiting room looks has a big impact on people.  The one I visit is exactly the same as it was in 1998.  The small waiting rooms mean you can hear what is being said in the room next door.  The little cafe only offers unhealthy things, like chocolate, crisps and cold pies.  Surely hot soup and a soft roll could be available, as people can sometimes be waiting hours.

5. After care support.  When you have been diagnosed with breast cancer you have a breast nurse assigned to you, that you can ring at any time and receive valuable help and information.  But when all your treatment is finished you have no one, apart from the wonderful charities such as Maggie’s Centre in Cheltenham.  A temporary post has been created for an advisor for Secondary Breast Cancer patients and this really should be a permanent position.  The lady is extremely busy and there is a real need for her.

Ginny is now encouraging others to share their views on how local NHS services could be improved.

She says: “I would encourage others to take part in the survey.  It is all very well to have your grumbles but, unless you speak up about them and help the hospitals with your thoughts, then they may not know about such issues people have.”