There is no denying it has been a difficult time for the charity for the last few months. What should have been a year of celebration as we marked our 30th anniversary became one of great uncertainty. Whilst this uncertainty remains, we enter the latter stage of the year with unwavering resolve and determination because, as this year has shown us – perhaps more than any of the prior 29 – people with lung cancer need us.
Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to provide support to those living with the disease. Calls to our Ask the Nurse services has risen by 56% as patients seek reassurance and information in these anxious times. We have continued to give out patient grants to those in need of financial help and kept our website up to date with the latest information.
In addition to this, we launched a new service to meet the needs of people with lung cancer in these unprecedented times. Our Keep in Touch support service ensures patients and carers have both clinical and practical support as well as simple human contact on a regular basis, with priority given to those who are socially isolated. Brian is one of those who uses the service:
“Hearing from Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s Keep in Touch Support Service is a great relief for me. It’s as helpful as any part of the NHS.”
The service has been so well received that we will continue to run it even after shielding has paused.
Now, with things beginning to settle, we must address the impact Covid-19 has had on cancer referral rates. During the pandemic, referral rates have dropped significantly. In some areas, this is over 70%.
This means there are people who will have been denied the opportunity of an earlier diagnosis and, potentially, life-saving treatment.
Covid-19 has taken a lot of lives and more people will die – not directly from it, but as a direct result of it.
We have made great strides in lung cancer in the last 30 years, particularly in the last few years. The long-term research funding imbalance has been remedied; for the last two years lung cancer has received the second highest amount of research funding.
We also saw the announcement of lung health checks which, if implemented properly, have the potential to save thousands of lives and provide further evidence for a national lung cancer screening programme. These pilot programmes have been paused during the pandemic. We want to see them back up and running safely as soon as possible and will be working with some of the sites to reassure and encourage those invited to attend their appointment.
During lockdown, we spoke to Jo. Jo was one of the last people to go through the Liverpool Healthy Lung Programme because it was stopped operation. She had surgery during the first week of lockdown:
“I count myself extremely lucky. Without this intervention, my story would probably be very different. I would have known nothing about the cancer in my lung until the appearance of symptoms, quite possibly at a stage when treatment would be much more difficult.
I know, because of the current situation, lung health checks are currently on pause. I hope they can start up again as soon as possible because early diagnosis is the key to a full recovery. I am living proof of that!”
Given the gravity of the situation, we are accelerating our plans for this year’s lung cancer awareness month campaign and will run a 12-week campaign launching in September. Lung cancer has been overshadowed for too long and we do not have time to wait.
This has all been possible thanks to the ongoing support we have had throughout the pandemic.
With major fundraising events cancelled, social distancing putting a stop to traditional fundraising and our shops closing their doors for many months, we have been hit hard. However, without the creativity and tenacity of supporters this could have been much worse than it is.
We are overwhelmed by the levels of support we have received. But we are far from out the woods. In fact, it’s unlikely we have felt to full financial brunt of this situation and in order to survive when we do, we need ongoing support to ensure those with this disease get the help and support they need and deserve.
Covid-19 has forced lung cancer back into the shadows. We need to re-shine the spotlight on lung cancer to save lives. This remains our priority. Lung cancer remains our priority and we will not lose focus. Too many lives depend on it.”
If you wish to support the great work that Roy Castle undertakes then contact: Claire Kelly, Corporate Partnership Manager firstname.lastname@example.org