"Our focus is on patients, on their outcomes, and on the quality of services... not on organisations" - Senior Responsible Officer Phil Mettam reflects on the Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance's inaugural annual conference

Phil Mettam, Senior Responsible Officer, Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance

I have been reflecting for a few days on our inaugural annual conference.

It was a pretty big deal for the Cancer Alliance and a test of our ability to bring people together as part of the maturing partnership arrangements across Humber, Coast and Vale.

We passed the test with flying colours. More than 150 clinicians, managers, service users, and carers gathered in York to celebrate our cancer services, but also to challenge each other to do better.

Feedback has been resounding and positive.

Our focus was on patients, on their outcomes, and on the quality of services. Not on organisations.

Some of the take home messages included:

  • Each week 168 people in Humber, Coast and Vale are diagnosed with cancer
  • Each week 78 families in Humber, Coast and Vale lose a loved one to cancer
  • Around 53,400 people in Humber, Coast and Vale are currently living with or after a diagnosis of cancer

We heard that breast cancer is the most common cancer in our area, and that smoking and lung cancer is a particular problem in Hull.

Many of the presentations emphasised the importance of early diagnosis, the earlier we diagnose the better the chance of a positive outcome, and the more cost-efficient the care is for the tax-payer. It will be a priority for our Alliance that over the next five years we will all focus on improving this position.

Many of the presentations were delivered with authority and humour. We heard about health inequalities, the challenge of creating equitable access to services, and equity of patient outcome. Comparing York to Selby, or Beverley to Grimsby, illustrates the challenge the Alliance faces.

We also heard about the exciting contribution that science can play through the evolution of genomics, and we heard many examples of clinical innovation.

Our clinical leaders also debated with each other on what makes a good clinical leader. It gives us great confidence that our leaders know the challenges ahead, they have the experience and skills required, and remain committed to improving cancer outcomes and services. The clinical leadership debate included snapshots from the movie Gladiator. Any budding Russell Crowes out there please get in touch with the Alliance team.

The highlight of the conference was the Positive Notes choir, which opened and closed our event. These are people who have had their lives touched in some way by cancer – their stories are compelling, moving and uplifting. If you are reading this and thinking about the power of patient stories, and music an,d song then I would encourage you to get in touch with these guys, they were fantastic.

I would like to thank everyone for supporting our conference, and in particular the speakers and the Alliance team, the arrangements were seamless, we have set a high bar.

So how would I summarise?

How would I describe it to others?

A few words come to mind .. challenging, rewarding, uplifting and humbling.

It reminded us all of why we do what we do.

‘Strength and honour’

Leo Stevens

Author Leo Stevens

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