I was invited by Prostate Cancer UK to speak at the Britain Against
Cancer 2012 conference in December on "What cancer patients
want from the NHS". The conference is the largest and most
important of its kind, and is the main annual event of the All Party Parliamentary
Group on Cancer. It is attended by around 450 delegates
including parliamentarians, health professionals and
representatives from cancer-related charities who look at policies
that affect cancer services and how we can work together to improve
services in England.
"Just talk about your own experiences like you've done before",
they said. Delighted to have been asked, "Fine", I replied, then
quickly realised there was a difference between a small round table
meeting and standing up for five minutes in front of a
knowledgeable audience of around seventy people!
I will confess to a couple of fairly sleepless nights prior to
the big day but it was a crisp, clear morning and the brisk walk in
the chill air from Victoria station to the venue was just what was
Central Hall, Westminster, is an impressive grade II listed
building in the Viennese Baroque style, with wide marble staircases
leading to the different levels within. The main speeches take
place in the grand hall, with break-out sessions on specific topics
in other meeting rooms repeated both morning and afternoon to
enable maximum numbers to attend.
On arrival, it was reassuring to meet people from the charity
and after a quick coffee and check on our meeting room, it was time
for the opening speeches and questions before moving on to the
break-out session. I was to speak second and sat nervously through
the first speech, hardly taking in a word. To help stay calm, I
kept telling myself that no matter how badly I spoke, the audience
would still have to sit and listen!
I needn't have worried. They were warm and my home rehearsals
paid off. Around five minutes later I sat down to applause - a
first for one of my own presentations! There followed some round
table discussion and feedback on what patients want at different
stages of their diagnosis and treatment and two more speeches, and
then it was time for lunch.
It is difficult to assess impact but I soon realised I must have
had some when a Director of one of the London Cancer Networks came over to ask a
Buoyed by positive feedback from the morning and the experience
of having already done it once, the afternoon presentation went
well and someone even suggested afterwards how Prostate Cancer UK's
could be distributed throughout the country.
Back in the main hall the Health
Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP then gave an assured performance
without notes and answered questions from the floor and after some
closing remarks from the Chairman, the conference was over.
This was a stimulating day when I was heartened to learn how
much is being done to combat cancer. My overwhelming feeling (apart
from relief) was one of humility to realise there are so many
dedicated people working for the benefit of cancer sufferers and I
just hope I have made a difference.