A group of Macmillan Professionals stood outside. All wearing their green Macmillan lanyards and smiling at the camera

2024: A year of transformation for Macmillan

Published: 24 January 2024

In this blog, Macmillan Chief Executive, Gemma Peters, reflects on her first year in the job, shares some thoughts and learnings from these past 12 months, and looks to Macmillan’s future. 

Gemma Peters CEO of Macmillan smiling at the camera

Gemma Peters Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Macmillan

Reflecting on the last 12 months

It’s been a year since I walked through the doors of Macmillan as chief executive, and it is fair to say the job has exceeded my expectations. 

Over the 12 months I have grown to understand how deeply our work is intertwined with people’s experience of cancer in the UK, how the support of our incredible fundraisers, partners and volunteers, has meant there is almost no aspect of cancer experience the organisation has not sought to improve. I’ve also asked for honest feedback from people with cancer, clinicians and our own colleagues about where we have further to go to make a positive difference. Perhaps the most surprising and energising thing has been just how many bold ideas there still are about how Macmillan could dramatically improve cancer care in the UK. Less surprising is that these ideas and opportunities need us to keep finding new ways to work in partnership. 

The cancer experience

We all know healthcare is changing, and some needs of people with cancer have changed and continue to do so. Some remain persistently unchanged like mental health and financial support. Whilst this is a time of great hope, with technological and treatment advances meaning that more people are being diagnosed earlier and living longer with cancer, unfortunately, not everyone is benefitting equally from these improvements. 

Over the last few years, we have also seen unprecedented challenges in the NHS. Healthcare professionals are working harder than ever but the immense pressure they are under means they simply cannot deliver the standard of care they want to. We support people with cancer who have been hit hardest by the rising cost of living by offering grants and welfare advice, but we can’t reach everyone and the gap between what they need and what they receive is widening. The cancer experience is getting worse for many, and people are needing more and different support. 

The need to evolve

For over a century, Macmillan has developed its services and support alongside the needs of people with cancer and has shaped some of the most important improvements we’ve seen in cancer care in the UK. It is increasingly clear that we need to evolve again to make sure we are meeting the needs of people living with cancer now and as they change into the future. So, 2024 will see us go through a year of transformation to ensure we are fit to tackle the emerging challenges faced by people with cancer. 

Last year we launched an open call for ideas and challenge from people with cancer, our colleagues, clinicians, supporters, partners and many others to define a new way for Macmillan to do the best work in our next chapter. Our next strategy. In truth it has been exhilarating. We now know that the expertise and assets Macmillan has hold greater potential. Our knowledge of what is happening in real time for patients and their clinicians, our community of thousands of practitioners, our trusted relationship with supporters, our resources and expertise. We are the only organisation in the world that has all this at our fingertips, and the opportunity to partner with others to make something special happen in the UK for people affected by cancer is exciting. The question for our strategy is not whether it’s possible to change things significantly for the better, it’s how we make the decisions about what to pursue first. That is what the next few months are about.  

Looking ahead to 2024

If we are going to deliver this ambition, we need to ensure that how we are set up, and how we work together within the organisation is sustainable for the long term. We know we have some work to do and I want us to go into our future as a truly aligned and focused organisation, doing fewer things better.  

We need to ensure that all our activity has the greatest possible impact for people with cancer. Macmillan has not been immune from the financial impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis. We are lucky to have an excellent fundraising team and generous supporters, but the reality is that it’s getting harder to raise each pound, and that pound buys a lot less than it did just a few years ago. To make the greatest impact, we’ll have to make some hard choices, be flexible and innovate. 

None of this will be easy, and I know our incredible partners, supporters and colleagues will continue to help us put people with cancer at the heart of all the choices we make to ensure Macmillan can keep serving people with cancer for the next 100 years. 

I begin my second year at Macmillan full of hope. I’ll be keeping my focus on being brave enough to do what’s right, not what’s easy; listening and acting on what people with cancer tell us; and making every pound work as hard as it can to tackle the issues they face. With the commitment of colleagues and keeping the needs of people with cancer at the forefront, I am confident that 2024 will be a year of positive transformation for Macmillan.