Report of first NHS National Cancer Patient Conference by MSc students Anna Williamson and Victoria Stanway

Blog post by Anna Williamson and Victoria Stanway, current students in the MSc Medicine Science & Society.

On Friday the 13th of March, we had the opportunity to attend the first NHS National Cancer Patient Conference, held at the G-Mex in Manchester. The conference was the brain-child of Stuart Gibson, Chair of Cancer Partnership Group, former cancer patient and patient activist. image 1 (1)The strapline of the conference was “No decisions about me without me”; this sentiment was reiterated throughout the day. The day kicked off with an introductory talk from Stuart Gibson, who explained how the conference came to be. Followed by a brief presentation on how the NHS will make the treatment of cancer more personalised with the ‘Five Year Forward View’ (

Numerous workshops ran throughout the day, including Peer Review, Patient Insight and Experience and Effective Patient Engagement. We were able to attend two workshops, one morning session and one afternoon session. Both of our dissertations are based around patient experience and illness experience, so we chose workshops that we thought would allow us to hear more about the patient perspective of healthcare.

image 3Our morning workshop was titled ‘Cancer- Coping with Psychological Factors’, which was run by Kevin Dennison, a psychotherapist and NLP (Neuro linguistic programming) master practitioner and trainer. This workshop was not what we were expecting, but transpired to be very interesting! This workshop focused on dealing with ‘bad news’ such as a cancer diagnosis. In-between learning about NLP, we were taught mindfulness exercises. We learnt to focus our positive energy whilst squeezing our thumbs with our eyes closed and thinking happy thoughts, and how to give ourselves a hug… We also learnt a groovy dance that utilises both sides of the brain; imagine a conference room full of dancing middle-aged people dancing and hugging themselves. (See pictures for a guide for how to hug yourself)

image 5NHS Improving Quality-Quality Control ran the afternoon session that we attended. This workshop discussed the Cancer Patient Experience Survey, and how different NHS Trusts incorporate the Cancer Patient Experience into the changes that are being made. Several of the attendants, who worked for the NHS, including nurses, described not knowing what to do with the qualitative data they received. There was also an open discussion in which we were asked to think about different ways that the NHS could gather information on the patient experience, such as twitter or online forums.

Throughout the day, there were numerous opportunities to visit the marketplace with various cancer charities and NGO’s. This was a great opportunity to talk to different charities about our dissertation topics, and access to research participants. Overall the day was extremely useful in placing what we have able to learn through research in a more practical setting. It humanised patients, and made their experiences visible in real life, as opposed to being read on the Internet or discussed in a journal article.

To contact the authors of the blog:

For inquiries about the MSc Medicine Science & Society, contact the Programme Director Dr Courtney Davis:

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