Friday 2 May 2014

Curing Cancer

Good to hear the news from Cancer Research UK about the huge progress in cancer survival rates, with most people surviving 10 years after diagnosis in sharp contrast to years back when it was less than a year .

There are some fantastic advances being made in diagnosis and treatment. The research on the genetic makeup of cancers is hugely promising. I suppose I'm taking a somewhat greater interest in all this having had prostate cancer. In fact the day that Cancer Research announced their findings was exactly one year to the day that I had my successful brachytherapy operation which cleared me. It means that I am now officially radiation free and babies and pregnant women can now sit on my lap with abandon.

And who is largely responsible for this major transformation?  It is charities. The vast bulk of the research is carried out by charities; either directly or in work that they fund. We have pioneered new treatments and care systems and supported people living with cancer. It is charities who are the major source of information and advice. It is charities who campaign for better treatment and hassle the NHS to get better at early diagnosis and health care. We campaign against NICE when they won't authorise new drugs and we work with Government to ensure the NHS gets its act together in early diagnosis. I was lucky. It was by chance I discovered I had prostate cancer. I had no symptoms but a relation had a PSA test (not positive), so I told my doctor I better have one too!

Charities' role is so often forgotten since people think it is the NHS that does all this work. And it is a sharp reminder of why our charity sector needs to pay appropriate salaries, on a par with the NHS, for professional staff.

We should not be afraid of banging the drum for 6-figure salaries if that is what it takes to get a top scientist or academic. As I said at the PASC hearing in the Commons in December, people with cancer deserve the best, not the cheapest. We want to find the cause of cancer, and if that means employing top scientists at large salaries then that is what we must do.

As the ACEVO "Good Pay Guide" said, it's all about outcomes and value for money. Transparency isn't just about a process. It's about the narrative. And it's about setting out our case on our terms, not those of our critics. It would be a disaster if trustees now think they can't advertise for top jobs over 100k, if that is what it takes to get the best. What beneficiaries need is a high performing charity, led by a high performing CEO.

After all, if you pay 50k and get poor performance that's 50k of charity money badly spent. If you pay 150k and get top performance - as judged by beneficiaries, trustees and staff - then that's a great investment. Let's not be coy about selling our case! The work of the cancer charities demonstrates why we should be bold.

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