Tag Archives: cancer

Doctors should order more blood cancer tests, MPs say

TV presenter Simon Thomas, whose wife died from a rare form of blood cancer last year, is calling for better training of GPs

Sky sports presenter, Simon Thomas


The Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas says doctors only diagnosed his wife’s acute myeloid leukaemia three days before she died. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

The Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas has revealed that doctors missed his wife’s blood cancer three times in the days before her death.

Thomas called for better training of GPs on the same day as politicians said doctors should order blood tests for any patient who shows symptoms of blood cancer.

Thomas’s wife, Gemma, died aged 40 in November, just three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare form of the disease.

Gemma initially had flu-like symptoms and went to see a doctor three times over the course of six days before she was finally admitted to hospital, where her condition continued to deteriorate, despite intensive chemotherapy treatment.

Since then, her husband Simon has raised more than £30,000 for charity. The money has been divided between Maggie’s Centres, a charity which offers support to people affected by cancer, and a refugee project that Gemma had launched.

On Wednesday, Thomas tweeted: “Three times my wife Gemma went to the doctor in six days and three times she was sent home and told to rest.

“Four days after her final visit to the her GP she was dead. We have to help and train our GPs and to detect blood cancer earlier.”

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

Three times my wife Gemma went to the doctor in six days and three times she was sent home and told to rest. Four days after her final visit to her GP she was dead. We have to help and train our GP’s and to detect #bloodcancer earlier. @bloodwise_uk is doing this. #hiddencancer https://t.co/V1uEz1HCLF

January 17, 2018

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia took my wife Gemma and Ethan’s Mum just before Christmas aged only 40 years and just three days after being diagnosed. This is so important. @bloodwise_uk https://t.co/V1uEz1HCLF

January 17, 2018

Thomas, 44, has been tweeting and blogging about his grief following Gemma’s death from AML, which affects around 2,600 people in Britain each year.

Thomas said he doesn’t blame the doctors who initially saw his wife before she was taken to hospital, but has encouraged people to seek a diagnosis from medics if they continue to feel unwell.

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

The darkness will hopefully not overcome. pic.twitter.com/umuBOT0TdW

January 2, 2018

The all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer said on Wednesday that many signs of blood cancer can be “misunderstood or misdiagnosed”.

In a new report, the group said that diagnosing blood cancer – such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma – can be “complex”.

Highlighting one patient group, MPs described how some elderly myeloma patients reporting symptoms of back ache and bone pain are told their symptom is “part of the ageing process”.

In order to improve early diagnosis rates, they called on GPs to immediately order a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer.

Symptoms of blood cancers can be similar to the symptoms of feeling “run down” or flu, such as fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, bruising and pain, they said.

The chair of the patient group, Henry Smith, an MP whose mother died from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2012, said: “Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and someone is diagnosed every 14 minutes.

“Delays in diagnosis can have a severe impact on an individual’s chance of survival, as well as on their quality of life.”

Commenting on the report, professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ““Each type of blood cancer can present in a varied way and GPs will base their decisions around what diagnostic testing is most appropriate on the symptoms being displayed by, and the unique circumstances potentially affecting, the patient in front of us.

“Any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.”

BBC newsreader George Alagiah reveals his cancer has returned

Corporation’s highest-paid star from BME background was given all-clear in 2015 after extensive treatment

George Alagiah was previously diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014, which later spread to his liver and lymph notes.


George Alagiah was previously diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014, which later spread to his liver and lymph notes. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/Jeff Overs

The newsreader George Alagiah, the BBC’s highest-paid star from a minority ethnic background, is to undergo further treatment for cancer after the disease returned.

The 62-year-old presenter of the BBC News at Six was previously diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014, which later spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

He returned to work in November 2015 after being cleared of the disease following extensive treatment. But in a statement Alagiah’s agent, Mary Greenham, said the disease had recurred. She said Alagiah, a father of two, was in discussions with doctors about options for treatment.

Alagiah spoke of his determination to fight the disease for a second time. “My brilliant doctors are determined to get me back to a disease-free state and I know they have the skill to do just that,” he said.

“I learned last time around how important the support of family and friends is and I am blessed in that department. I genuinely feel positive as I prepare for this new challenge.”

George Alagiah (@BBCAlagiah)

Always knew cancer could come back but still tough dealing with disappointment. Harder for my family. I know what I have to do: stay calm, stay content, stay fit and let doctors do their best.

January 15, 2018

The Sri-Lanka-born presenter first informed his doctors of a problem in 2014. After a colonoscopy, a tumour was discovered on his bowel.

MRI scans later detected eight tumours in his liver. He had several rounds of chemotherapy and three major operations, one of which included the removal of most of his liver.

He has spoken frankly about the chances of the disease recurring. In 2016 he told the Telegraph: “I get anxious and then there is a huge relief when the doctor tells me it is clear again. But I am under no illusions.

“The doctor warned me last year: ‘Your cancer knows the road, the pathway out of the gut.’ It can happen again.”

Alagiah joined the BBC in 1989 and spent many years as one of the corporation’s leading foreign correspondents before moving to presenting the News at Six in 2007.

Last year the publication of a list of the best-paid on-screen staff at the corporation revealed he was paid between £250,000 and £299,999, putting him 25th in the table and making him the highest earner from a black or minority ethnic background.

A BBC spokesman said: “Everyone at the BBC sends George and his family their best wishes as he undergoes treatment and we will be thinking of them.”

NHS cancer hospital may have to delay or reduce treatment

An NHS cancer hospital may have to make patients wait to undergo chemotherapy, or reduce the amount of treatment that dying patients receive, because it has so few nurses, a leaked memo has revealed.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the prospect of the Churchill hospital in Oxford in effect rationing life-extending and potentially life-saving chemotherapy was “deeply worrying”, especially for people dying of the disease.

The warning is thought to be unprecedented in cancer care. It is set out in an email from Dr Andrew Weaver, the chemotherapy lead, to fellow cancer specialists at the hospital.

Sent on 3 January, Weaver refers to the difficulties on the day treatment unit (DTU) caused by a shortage of specialist cancer nurses who administer chemotherapy.

He makes clear that limiting access to the treatment could affect both newly referred cancer patients and those in their final weeks or months of life.

Weaver writes: “Currently we are down approximately 40% on the establishment of nurses on DTU and as a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients’ starting times to four weeks.”

Two types of cancer patients will continue to receive their chemotherapy as normal: dying patients undergoing their first course of chemotherapy and those who are receiving it in addition to other cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy.

In future, however, dying patients could receive less chemotherapy as a result of the lack of nurses.

Weaver said: “We propose that for second, third and fourth line palliative treatments the cycle length is increased by one or two weeks and/or the total number of cycles administered is reduced – for example, where normally six cycles are given then teams should consider reducing to four cycles in total.

“I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable in the short, medium and long term. Sadly we cannot see the staffing levels on DTU improving for at least 18-24 months.”

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors they have relative to their populations. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with proportionately the fewest medics are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say that understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

Dr Karen Roberts, Macmillan’s chief nursing officer, said patients’ lives could be shortened if the hospital implemented Weaver’s proposals.

“Such a situation is deeply worrying and delays cause untold distress to patients. A group who may be particularly affected by such a decision would be those who have treatable but not curable cancer.

“Chemotherapy can help relieve their symptoms, extend survival and enable people to spend precious time with their family. If access to treatment is reduced, all these factors may be affected.”

Oxford Universty hospitals NHS trust, which runs the Churchill, said it had not decided to implement any of the suggested measures, but did not rule out doing so.

“We have not made any decisions to delay the start of chemotherapy treatment or to reduce the number of cycles of chemotherapy treatment which patients with cancer receive,” it said in a statement.

“We would like to reassure our patients that no changes to chemotherapy treatment have been made or will be made before thorough consideration has been given to all possible options.”

David Bailey, a nurse with the trust who is being treated for cancer at the Churchill, said the high vacancy rate for cancer nurses, and any consequent reduction in chemotherapy, would affect the outcomes for patients..

“I am lucky, I’m part of a clinical trial, which will not be affected; but how frightening is this for other, newly diagnosed cancer patients?”

NHS cancer hospital may have to delay or reduce treatment

An NHS cancer hospital may have to make patients wait to undergo chemotherapy, or reduce the amount of treatment that dying patients receive, because it has so few nurses, a leaked memo has revealed.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the prospect of the Churchill hospital in Oxford in effect rationing life-extending and potentially life-saving chemotherapy was “deeply worrying”, especially for people dying of the disease.

The warning is thought to be unprecedented in cancer care. It is set out in an email from Dr Andrew Weaver, the chemotherapy lead, to fellow cancer specialists at the hospital.

Sent on 3 January, Weaver refers to the difficulties on the day treatment unit (DTU) caused by a shortage of specialist cancer nurses who administer chemotherapy.

He makes clear that limiting access to the treatment could affect both newly referred cancer patients and those in their final weeks or months of life.

Weaver writes: “Currently we are down approximately 40% on the establishment of nurses on DTU and as a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients’ starting times to four weeks.”

Two types of cancer patients will continue to receive their chemotherapy as normal: dying patients undergoing their first course of chemotherapy and those who are receiving it in addition to other cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy.

In future, however, dying patients could receive less chemotherapy as a result of the lack of nurses.

Weaver said: “We propose that for second, third and fourth line palliative treatments the cycle length is increased by one or two weeks and/or the total number of cycles administered is reduced – for example, where normally six cycles are given then teams should consider reducing to four cycles in total.

“I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable in the short, medium and long term. Sadly we cannot see the staffing levels on DTU improving for at least 18-24 months.”

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors they have relative to their populations. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with proportionately the fewest medics are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say that understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

Dr Karen Roberts, Macmillan’s chief nursing officer, said patients’ lives could be shortened if the hospital implemented Weaver’s proposals.

“Such a situation is deeply worrying and delays cause untold distress to patients. A group who may be particularly affected by such a decision would be those who have treatable but not curable cancer.

“Chemotherapy can help relieve their symptoms, extend survival and enable people to spend precious time with their family. If access to treatment is reduced, all these factors may be affected.”

Oxford Universty hospitals NHS trust, which runs the Churchill, said it had not decided to implement any of the suggested measures, but did not rule out doing so.

“We have not made any decisions to delay the start of chemotherapy treatment or to reduce the number of cycles of chemotherapy treatment which patients with cancer receive,” it said in a statement.

“We would like to reassure our patients that no changes to chemotherapy treatment have been made or will be made before thorough consideration has been given to all possible options.”

David Bailey, a nurse with the trust who is being treated for cancer at the Churchill, said the high vacancy rate for cancer nurses, and any consequent reduction in chemotherapy, would affect the outcomes for patients..

“I am lucky, I’m part of a clinical trial, which will not be affected; but how frightening is this for other, newly diagnosed cancer patients?”

NHS cancer hospital may have to delay or reduce treatment

An NHS cancer hospital may have to make patients wait to undergo chemotherapy, or reduce the amount of treatment that dying patients receive, because it has so few nurses, a leaked memo has revealed.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the prospect of the Churchill hospital in Oxford in effect rationing life-extending and potentially life-saving chemotherapy was “deeply worrying”, especially for people dying of the disease.

The warning is thought to be unprecedented in cancer care. It is set out in an email from Dr Andrew Weaver, the chemotherapy lead, to fellow cancer specialists at the hospital.

Sent on 3 January, Weaver refers to the difficulties on the day treatment unit (DTU) caused by it being drastically short of specialist cancer nurses who administer chemotherapy.

He makes clear that limiting access to the treatment could affect both newly referred cancer patients and those in their final weeks or months of life.

Weaver writes: “Currently we are down approximately 40% on the establishment of nurses on DTU and as a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients’ starting times to four weeks.”

Two types of cancer patients will continue to receive their chemotherapy as normal: dying patients undergoing their first course of chemotherapy and those who are receiving it in addition to other cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy.

In future, however, dying patients could receive less chemotherapy as a result of the lack of nurses.

Weaver said: “We propose that for second, third and fourth line palliative treatments the cycle length is increased by one or two weeks and/or the total number of cycles administered is reduced – for example, where normally six cycles are given then teams should consider reducing to four cycles in total.

“I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable in the short, medium and long term. Sadly we cannot see the staffing levels on DTU improving for at least 18-24 months.”

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors they have relative to their populations. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with proportionately the fewest medics are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say that understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

Dr Karen Roberts, Macmillan’s chief nursing officer, said patients’ lives could be shortened if the hospital implemented Weaver’s proposals.

“Such a situation is deeply worrying and delays cause untold distress to patients. A group who may be particularly affected by such a decision would be those who have treatable but not curable cancer.

“Chemotherapy can help relieve their symptoms, extend survival and enable people to spend precious time with their family. If access to treatment is reduced, all these factors may be affected.”

Oxford Universty hospitals NHS trust, which runs the Churchill, said it had not decided to implement any of the suggested measures, but did not rule out doing so.

“We have not made any decisions to delay the start of chemotherapy treatment or to reduce the number of cycles of chemotherapy treatment which patients with cancer receive,” it said in a statement.

“We would like to reassure our patients that no changes to chemotherapy treatment have been made or will be made before thorough consideration has been given to all possible options.”

David Bailey, a nurse with the trust who is being treated for cancer at the Churchill, said the high vacancy rate for cancer nurses, and any consequent reduction in chemotherapy, would affect the outcomes for patients..

“I am lucky, I’m part of a clinical trial, which will not be affected; but how frightening is this for other, newly diagnosed cancer patients?”

My cancer operation was cancelled and I can’t sleep at night. Jeremy Hunt, how can you? | Carly O’Neill

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I didn’t sleep well last night. I was nervous, anxious about what was going to happen the next day. I’m not great with needles, never mind scalpels. But I also knew that I was in the hands of professionals, who would do absolutely everything they could to make me better.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer in early October. It’s been a stressful few months, because a cancer diagnosis, even with an excellent prognosis like mine, is terrifying. It was hard to be at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists for different appointments in different hospitals with different specialists.

But at last, today was the day. I would have surgery, and after that I would be able to focus on recovering and putting all of this behind me. I would be able to get back to my PhD again – I’m due to submit that very soon. I’m getting married later this year, and I look forward to planning the wedding and trying on wedding dresses. Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with.

It’s quite a big operation, and it’ll take a few weeks to recover. Last week, four months since my GP first referred me and three months after being diagnosed, I heard that I would be having surgery soon. I was worried, but mostly really relieved that it would all be over soon. I only heard a few days in advance, so it was quite a dash to get everything sorted. My colleagues have been amazing in organising cover for me at such short notice. My fiance had to take time off work, too. So his colleagues have had to be equally wonderful.

This morning I got up very early and made my way to the hospital. I saw nurses, and the surgeon, and the anaesthetist. There were boxes to tick and forms to sign. They drew the markings for surgery on me, and I was put in a gown and given wristbands with my name and allergies on them. The most suitable vein for the IV was found. They went through all the possible risks in detail, which is of course a good thing, but it didn’t help me relax.

Hospitals can be intimidating places and it’s stressful to be at the mercy of others, even when they are the amazing people in the NHS. I can’t emphasise enough how much respect they deserve for working in the circumstances they’re put in, and they remain not only impressively professional, but understanding, calm and kind.

But at last, all the waiting was over, I was all prepared, the only thing left to do was to actually have the surgery. And after all that, Mr Hunt, after all that: I was sent home, because there wasn’t a bed available.

The winter pressures on the health system – including flu, which can exacerbate underlying conditions to the point where urgent care is needed – had brought the hospital to a near standstill. Only life-threatening conditions were being treated in the theatres. Even cancer operations, like mine, had to be shelved.

I’ve been pencilled in for February, but have been warned the same thing could happen again. And I’ve seen the headlines – people with more urgent problems than me are being sent home, sometimes repeatedly. I read yesterday about a young child who had faced five cancellations.

Mr Hunt, I know you didn’t cancel my operation yourself. And I know that hospitals sometimes have to prioritise. But my local hospital didn’t get into this state simply because of the season.

You keep telling us how funding for the NHS has increased. What you don’t mention is that, since 2010, the rate of increase has been far below the long-term average increase in health spending, at a time of massively rising demand. Our health system is like an old building: it’s creaking and shaking in the bad weather because the owners haven’t bothered to keep it in good repair. That is something you are responsible for.

Long term I’ll be OK, because I’m sure that eventually there will be a bed available. I’ll have a few more sleepless nights, though.

Congratulations on keeping your job, Mr Hunt. I’m sure you’ll continue to do it ruthlessly. I hope you sleep well.

Yours,

Carly

Carly O’Neill is working on a PhD

My cancer operation was cancelled and I can’t sleep at night. Jeremy Hunt, how can you? | Carly O’Neill

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I didn’t sleep well last night. I was nervous, anxious about what was going to happen the next day. I’m not great with needles, never mind scalpels. But I also knew that I was in the hands of professionals, who would do absolutely everything they could to make me better.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer in early October. It’s been a stressful few months, because a cancer diagnosis, even with an excellent prognosis like mine, is terrifying. It was hard to be at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists for different appointments in different hospitals with different specialists.

But at last, today was the day. I would have surgery, and after that I would be able to focus on recovering and putting all of this behind me. I would be able to get back to my PhD again – I’m due to submit that very soon. I’m getting married later this year, and I look forward to planning the wedding and trying on wedding dresses. Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with.

It’s quite a big operation, and it’ll take a few weeks to recover. Last week, four months since my GP first referred me and three months after being diagnosed, I heard that I would be having surgery soon. I was worried, but mostly really relieved that it would all be over soon. I only heard a few days in advance, so it was quite a dash to get everything sorted. My colleagues have been amazing in organising cover for me at such short notice. My fiance had to take time off work, too. So his colleagues have had to be equally wonderful.

This morning I got up very early and made my way to the hospital. I saw nurses, and the surgeon, and the anaesthetist. There were boxes to tick and forms to sign. They drew the markings for surgery on me, and I was put in a gown and given wristbands with my name and allergies on them. The most suitable vein for the IV was found. They went through all the possible risks in detail, which is of course a good thing, but it didn’t help me relax.

Hospitals can be intimidating places and it’s stressful to be at the mercy of others, even when they are the amazing people in the NHS. I can’t emphasise enough how much respect they deserve for working in the circumstances they’re put in, and they remain not only impressively professional, but understanding, calm and kind.

But at last, all the waiting was over, I was all prepared, the only thing left to do was to actually have the surgery. And after all that, Mr Hunt, after all that: I was sent home, because there wasn’t a bed available.

The winter pressures on the health system – including flu, which can exacerbate underlying conditions to the point where urgent care is needed – had brought the hospital to a near standstill. Only life-threatening conditions were being treated in the theatres. Even cancer operations, like mine, had to be shelved.

I’ve been pencilled in for February, but have been warned the same thing could happen again. And I’ve seen the headlines – people with more urgent problems than me are being sent home, sometimes repeatedly. I read yesterday about a young child who had faced five cancellations.

Mr Hunt, I know you didn’t cancel my operation yourself. And I know that hospitals sometimes have to prioritise. But my local hospital didn’t get into this state simply because of the season.

You keep telling us how funding for the NHS has increased. What you don’t mention is that, since 2010, the rate of increase has been far below the long-term average increase in health spending, at a time of massively rising demand. Our health system is like an old building: it’s creaking and shaking in the bad weather because the owners haven’t bothered to keep it in good repair. That is something you are responsible for.

Long term I’ll be OK, because I’m sure that eventually there will be a bed available. I’ll have a few more sleepless nights, though.

Congratulations on keeping your job, Mr Hunt. I’m sure you’ll continue to do it ruthlessly. I hope you sleep well.

Yours,

Carly

Carly O’Neill is working on a PhD

My cancer operation was cancelled and I can’t sleep at night. Jeremy Hunt, how can you? | Carly O’Neill

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I didn’t sleep well last night. I was nervous, anxious about what was going to happen the next day. I’m not great with needles, never mind scalpels. But I also knew that I was in the hands of professionals, who would do absolutely everything they could to make me better.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer in early October. It’s been a stressful few months, because a cancer diagnosis, even with an excellent prognosis like mine, is terrifying. It was hard to be at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists for different appointments in different hospitals with different specialists.

But at last, today was the day. I would have surgery, and after that I would be able to focus on recovering and putting all of this behind me. I would be able to get back to my PhD again – I’m due to submit that very soon. I’m getting married later this year, and I look forward to planning the wedding and trying on wedding dresses. Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with.

It’s quite a big operation, and it’ll take a few weeks to recover. Last week, four months since my GP first referred me and three months after being diagnosed, I heard that I would be having surgery soon. I was worried, but mostly really relieved that it would all be over soon. I only heard a few days in advance, so it was quite a dash to get everything sorted. My colleagues have been amazing in organising cover for me at such short notice. My fiance had to take time off work, too. So his colleagues have had to be equally wonderful.

This morning I got up very early and made my way to the hospital. I saw nurses, and the surgeon, and the anaesthetist. There were boxes to tick and forms to sign. They drew the markings for surgery on me, and I was put in a gown and given wristbands with my name and allergies on them. The most suitable vein for the IV was found. They went through all the possible risks in detail, which is of course a good thing, but it didn’t help me relax.

Hospitals can be intimidating places and it’s stressful to be at the mercy of others, even when they are the amazing people in the NHS. I can’t emphasise enough how much respect they deserve for working in the circumstances they’re put in, and they remain not only impressively professional, but understanding, calm and kind.

But at last, all the waiting was over, I was all prepared, the only thing left to do was to actually have the surgery. And after all that, Mr Hunt, after all that: I was sent home, because there wasn’t a bed available.

The winter pressures on the health system – including flu, which can exacerbate underlying conditions to the point where urgent care is needed – had brought the hospital to a near standstill. Only life-threatening conditions were being treated in the theatres. Even cancer operations, like mine, had to be shelved.

I’ve been pencilled in for February, but have been warned the same thing could happen again. And I’ve seen the headlines – people with more urgent problems than me are being sent home, sometimes repeatedly. I read yesterday about a young child who had faced five cancellations.

Mr Hunt, I know you didn’t cancel my operation yourself. And I know that hospitals sometimes have to prioritise. But my local hospital didn’t get into this state simply because of the season.

You keep telling us how funding for the NHS has increased. What you don’t mention is that, since 2010, the rate of increase has been far below the long-term average increase in health spending, at a time of massively rising demand. Our health system is like an old building: it’s creaking and shaking in the bad weather because the owners haven’t bothered to keep it in good repair. That is something you are responsible for.

Long term I’ll be OK, because I’m sure that eventually there will be a bed available. I’ll have a few more sleepless nights, though.

Congratulations on keeping your job, Mr Hunt. I’m sure you’ll continue to do it ruthlessly. I hope you sleep well.

Yours,

Carly

Carly O’Neill is working on a PhD

My cancer operation was cancelled and I can’t sleep at night. Jeremy Hunt, how can you? | Carly O’Neill

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I didn’t sleep well last night. I was nervous, anxious about what was going to happen the next day. I’m not great with needles, never mind scalpels. But I also knew that I was in the hands of professionals, who would do absolutely everything they could to make me better.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer in early October. It’s been a stressful few months, because a cancer diagnosis, even with an excellent prognosis like mine, is terrifying. It was hard to be at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists for different appointments in different hospitals with different specialists.

But at last, today was the day. I would have surgery, and after that I would be able to focus on recovering and putting all of this behind me. I would be able to get back to my PhD again – I’m due to submit that very soon. I’m getting married later this year, and I look forward to planning the wedding and trying on wedding dresses. Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with.

It’s quite a big operation, and it’ll take a few weeks to recover. Last week, four months since my GP first referred me and three months after being diagnosed, I heard that I would be having surgery soon. I was worried, but mostly really relieved that it would all be over soon. I only heard a few days in advance, so it was quite a dash to get everything sorted. My colleagues have been amazing in organising cover for me at such short notice. My fiance had to take time off work, too. So his colleagues have had to be equally wonderful.

This morning I got up very early and made my way to the hospital. I saw nurses, and the surgeon, and the anaesthetist. There were boxes to tick and forms to sign. They drew the markings for surgery on me, and I was put in a gown and given wristbands with my name and allergies on them. The most suitable vein for the IV was found. They went through all the possible risks in detail, which is of course a good thing, but it didn’t help me relax.

Hospitals can be intimidating places and it’s stressful to be at the mercy of others, even when they are the amazing people in the NHS. I can’t emphasise enough how much respect they deserve for working in the circumstances they’re put in, and they remain not only impressively professional, but understanding, calm and kind.

But at last, all the waiting was over, I was all prepared, the only thing left to do was to actually have the surgery. And after all that, Mr Hunt, after all that: I was sent home, because there wasn’t a bed available.

The winter pressures on the health system – including flu, which can exacerbate underlying conditions to the point where urgent care is needed – had brought the hospital to a near standstill. Only life-threatening conditions were being treated in the theatres. Even cancer operations, like mine, had to be shelved.

I’ve been pencilled in for February, but have been warned the same thing could happen again. And I’ve seen the headlines – people with more urgent problems than me are being sent home, sometimes repeatedly. I read yesterday about a young child who had faced five cancellations.

Mr Hunt, I know you didn’t cancel my operation yourself. And I know that hospitals sometimes have to prioritise. But my local hospital didn’t get into this state simply because of the season.

You keep telling us how funding for the NHS has increased. What you don’t mention is that, since 2010, the rate of increase has been far below the long-term average increase in health spending, at a time of massively rising demand. Our health system is like an old building: it’s creaking and shaking in the bad weather because the owners haven’t bothered to keep it in good repair. That is something you are responsible for.

Long term I’ll be OK, because I’m sure that eventually there will be a bed available. I’ll have a few more sleepless nights, though.

Congratulations on keeping your job, Mr Hunt. I’m sure you’ll continue to do it ruthlessly. I hope you sleep well.

Yours,

Carly

Carly O’Neill is working on a PhD

My cancer operation was cancelled and I can’t sleep at night. Jeremy Hunt, how can you? | Carly O’Neill

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I didn’t sleep well last night. I was nervous, anxious about what was going to happen the next day. I’m not great with needles, never mind scalpels. But I also knew that I was in the hands of professionals, who would do absolutely everything they could to make me better.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer in early October. It’s been a stressful few months, because a cancer diagnosis, even with an excellent prognosis like mine, is terrifying. It was hard to be at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists for different appointments in different hospitals with different specialists.

But at last, today was the day. I would have surgery, and after that I would be able to focus on recovering and putting all of this behind me. I would be able to get back to my PhD again – I’m due to submit that very soon. I’m getting married later this year, and I look forward to planning the wedding and trying on wedding dresses. Life feels a little like it’s on hold until this cancer is dealt with.

It’s quite a big operation, and it’ll take a few weeks to recover. Last week, four months since my GP first referred me and three months after being diagnosed, I heard that I would be having surgery soon. I was worried, but mostly really relieved that it would all be over soon. I only heard a few days in advance, so it was quite a dash to get everything sorted. My colleagues have been amazing in organising cover for me at such short notice. My fiance had to take time off work, too. So his colleagues have had to be equally wonderful.

This morning I got up very early and made my way to the hospital. I saw nurses, and the surgeon, and the anaesthetist. There were boxes to tick and forms to sign. They drew the markings for surgery on me, and I was put in a gown and given wristbands with my name and allergies on them. The most suitable vein for the IV was found. They went through all the possible risks in detail, which is of course a good thing, but it didn’t help me relax.

Hospitals can be intimidating places and it’s stressful to be at the mercy of others, even when they are the amazing people in the NHS. I can’t emphasise enough how much respect they deserve for working in the circumstances they’re put in, and they remain not only impressively professional, but understanding, calm and kind.

But at last, all the waiting was over, I was all prepared, the only thing left to do was to actually have the surgery. And after all that, Mr Hunt, after all that: I was sent home, because there wasn’t a bed available.

The winter pressures on the health system – including flu, which can exacerbate underlying conditions to the point where urgent care is needed – had brought the hospital to a near standstill. Only life-threatening conditions were being treated in the theatres. Even cancer operations, like mine, had to be shelved.

I’ve been pencilled in for February, but have been warned the same thing could happen again. And I’ve seen the headlines – people with more urgent problems than me are being sent home, sometimes repeatedly. I read yesterday about a young child who had faced five cancellations.

Mr Hunt, I know you didn’t cancel my operation yourself. And I know that hospitals sometimes have to prioritise. But my local hospital didn’t get into this state simply because of the season.

You keep telling us how funding for the NHS has increased. What you don’t mention is that, since 2010, the rate of increase has been far below the long-term average increase in health spending, at a time of massively rising demand. Our health system is like an old building: it’s creaking and shaking in the bad weather because the owners haven’t bothered to keep it in good repair. That is something you are responsible for.

Long term I’ll be OK, because I’m sure that eventually there will be a bed available. I’ll have a few more sleepless nights, though.

Congratulations on keeping your job, Mr Hunt. I’m sure you’ll continue to do it ruthlessly. I hope you sleep well.

Yours,

Carly

Carly O’Neill is working on a PhD