Sharing the Caring for Cancer in Milton Keynes by Suzan St Maur

Given the substantial “reorganisation” that has been taking place recently within NHS England, it’s not surprising to find that voluntary groups dealing with the patient/carer (or “user”) point of view, have taken a bit of a knocking – whatever the area of care concerned.

Rebecca Spencer at MKCPP

Rebecca Spencer at MKCPP

But not in the case of one particular group in the “new” city of Milton Keynes – the Milton Keynes Cancer Patient Partnership. Here’s what they do, have been doing for 10 years, and have every intention of continuing to do in the future.

What the MK Cancer Patient Partnership is all about …

Making sure that they have the best possible cancer services in their area is a vitally important activity. That’s why they encourage local cancer patients and carers – users of cancer services – to join them: representatives from all related interests and disciplines, working together to solve problems and enhance cancer services right across the board in the MK area.

The group consists of doctors, nurses, managers and other professionals as well as users of cancer services meeting – as equals – once every few weeks to:
• share experiences
• identify problems
• develop solutions
• help implement improvements

A few of the MKCPP’s key activities

Environmental audits: checking out the surroundings in which cancer outpatient clinics take place in the hospital from a patient’s or carer’s perspective, and reporting back to people who can get changes made if they’re needed. A very successful and popular activity.

Internal validation and peer review: a fascinating insight into the superb work the cancer professionals do. The MKCPP supplies most of the user representatives required for this cancer activity in MK.

Cancer survivorship: an interesting and heart-warming initiative where we advise on and help with encouraging cancer patients to get back to normal, full lives after treatment, and promote the wide range of resources available for recovering/long-term treated cancer patients in the region.

Contributing to cancer nurses’ meetings: Milton Keynes has a fantastic team of Macmillan-status cancer nurses, who often invite us to join their meetings to provide the user’s viewpoint.

Promoting cancer causes locally: together with cancer nurses and doctors and local voluntary groups, we stage and help with exhibitions, questionnaire sessions and special days connected with cancer and cancer survivorship.

Rebecca Spencer at MKCPP #2

Rebecca Spencer at MKCPP #2

“What makes our group unique is that we are a true partnership, with patients and carers working hand-in-hand with the professionals and managers as colleagues – and as friends. Unlike support groups or pressure groups, our partnership combines a variety of disciplines, skills and interests. This works powerfully towards – and achieves – solutions that help everyone improve the cancer patient experience.”
Suzan St Maur, Chair, MKCPP

“I was one of the founding members of the MKCPP, as a user, 10 years ago and together with the professionals and managers we have accomplished numerous improvements. Some are only small things, but often those are things that mean a lot to cancer patients. What is so special about our partnership, to me, is that because we represent different cancers as patients, carers, specialist doctors, nurses and managers, what we achieve is practicable and realistic for all concerned.”
Jaff Newton, Secretary, MKCPP

Where does this go for cancer care in other areas of the UK?

In fairness many other areas of the UK do have cancer patient representative groups, but they tend to fall more into the categories of support groups, or pressure groups.

However where the MKCPP and similar groups are pioneering true progress for promoting the cancer patients’ voices is in groups where both “users” of cancer services (i.e. patients and carers) and the healthcare professionals involved, work together to achieve solutions that are a) affordable and b) practicable … so leading to a better outcome all around.

The MKCPP liaises and works with similar groups in the south-east Midlands and Thames Valley regions, sharing information, best practice, and other essential elements.

Much as we might perceive inadequacies within the NHS and associated social services where cancer is concerned, we have to deal with what we’ve got. The MKCPP is pioneering the way forward for realistic maintenance and improvements in cancer services based on the realities of today … while hoping for even better cancer care in the future.

For more information about the MKCPP, please contact

Care to Share Magazine volume 1 issue 1


4 thoughts on “Sharing the Caring for Cancer in Milton Keynes by Suzan St Maur

  1. Thanks Suze,

    If ever there was an advert for tearing down professional barriers and working together as a team this is it. It’s interesting how your article appears in such contrast to Mark Gray’s article on Care in the community. Teamwork really shouldn’t be that hard.

    Thankyou so much for letting us see that it is possible to make shared projects work. It illustrates a point that’s well worth making.



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