Monday, 10 December 2012

A true partnership...or time to boogie?



Yes its beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The lights are on around town, the mulled wine is flowing and families tempted by excess, lured by snowmen to show love through their gifts, look in equal measure exited and stressed. Or is that just me? The juxtaposition of the Christmas pressures and the deepening economic challenges in the country make this a hard time for so many. And if you factor in serious illness or loss it’s a potent mix.

Every nurse can tell you of a patient who hung on against the odds to get to Christmas, to wait till a child arrives from Australia, to see a child perform a Christmas play…you get the drift. The poignancy of these occasions is without comparison. And people in the main do cling to life, their definition of quality shifting as illness advances ,but time with those we love are always top of the list.

And its this that drives much of the access to medicines discussion. But let me say this isn’t just about medicine. We know that surgery and radiotherapy are important parts of life saving or life improving treatment and lets not lose sight of that. But its access to medicines that have become the focus of recent times, particularly in Scotland. Amidst the complexity of the debate, there is consensus I believe that the current system isn’t working equitably across the piece. The bĂȘte noir of government-the post code lottery-remains, despite well intended efforts to change that. No one system changes that currently. But if we want to change it in the future my belief is following some key principles will help get it right:

1. Keep it simple! Healthcare teams are incredibly busy. Any system that overwhelms them further will create implementation fatigue and resistance.
2. Publish and be damned! To deal with issues of equity and implementation make it a transparent and a publicly accessible process.
3. Communication, communication, communication! Tell people about it, how to access the system and ask them (the recipients) if it’s working.

Ok maybe that’s a challenging approach but if this is a true partnership with people offering and receiving care there needs to be trust. As any fan of Strictly Come Dancing will tell you to succeed and develop you have to have confidence and the right steps in  the right order. And that trust needs to be earned by all involved. The research we fund at Breakthrough is all aimed at improving outcomes, either by preventing people getting breast cancer or stopping them dying from it. In order for that to be successful we need to ensure that the systems are such that they ensure people then get access to innovative treatments, wherever they are. Our loyal and hard working supporters and all people affected by breast cancer deserve no less.

Reasons to be cheerful: it's the all Breakthrough Christmas party this week. So we are off to London for the annual bash. If I say it costs a fiver then your expectations will be suitably modified. The unspoken rule that the senior team leave before drunkenness ensues ( no I didn't mean me!)  is worth adhering to. Usually I am close to the oldest there but my permanent state of denial means I hope to get a wee dance before the night is over. If you see me limping next week you'll know I succeeded. Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight.......blame it on the boogie!




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