(L-R: Campaigns Manager David Park with supporters Andy Luck and Kim Rowan)
Unlike the Westminster Parliament's All Party Parliamentary Groups, the Scottish parliament's Cross Party Groups (CPGs) allow non-parliamentarians to become members. We (Pancreatic Cancer UK) signed up as a member of the CPG on Cancer in April and on Tuesday our Campaigns and Policy Manager, David Park, attended their most recent meeting. He was joined by Pancreatic Cancer UK Supporters Kim Rowan and Andy Luck and the meeting was well attended with supporters of other cancer organisations.
The CPG meeting was split into two parts, starting with a 45 minute address and Q&A from the Scottish Cabinet Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil MSP. Mr Neil and his senior officials answered questions on a number of interesting topics including the following:
- In response to a specific question on improving early diagnosis for pancreatic cancer, Mr Neil said the current, cancer specific awareness campaigns for breast, bowel and lung cancers was only the beginning of a longer-term strategy, holding out the prospect for a pancreatic cancer specific campaign in future.
- Following trials, GPs would soon be given easier access to imaging technology so, for instance, they could refer patients for CT scans more quickly, and help make accurate diagnoses at an earlier stage.
- Mr Neil said he wanted to see improved patient involvement in the design and delivery of health services in Scotland, with patients seen as ''co-decision makers.''
- Scotland's Cancer Plan will be updated, with work on a new draft commencing soon.
Next up to speak was Mr Ross Carter, Consultant Surgeon in Upper GI and Pancreatico-biliary surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and a member of our Medical Advisory Board
Mr Carter's presentation gave the MSPs and others background information on pancreatic cancer, its poor survival rates and limited treatments. Information from Pancreatic Cancer UK's recent Patient Experience Survey was quoted, notably the startling statistic that 16% of pancreatic cancer patients had to visit their GP or hospital seven times or more before being correctly diagnosed.
Mr Carter then focused on what he termed possible ''quick wins'' - changes that the NHS could make without having to spend large sums of money. These included making sure GPs were better trained to spot early pancreatic cancer symptoms, making sure NHS guidelines were drawn up using pancreatic cancer specific data, ensuring patients received more holistic support, especially through the use of Cancer Nurse Specialists. He welcomed the news from the previous session that GPs would be given earlier access to CT scans.
All in all the meeting was an excellent way of raising awareness of pancreatic cancer amongst Members of the Scottish Parliament and across Scotland more widely, and Pancreatic Cancer UK looks forward to continuing to play a part in the CPG in future.
If you want to know more about our Campaigning work within Westminster and the UK, head to our Campaigning pages now.