7 April 2016
Macmillan Cancer Support is calling for greater support for people wanting to remain in or return to work after a cancer diagnosis. Each year, almost 3,500 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland.
There is over 20,000 people aged 15 - 64 currently living here with cancer and almost half of them (4 in 10) have to make significant changes to their working life after diagnosis, with some having to leave their jobs completely. Macmillan believes there is not enough advice or guidance available to help navigate the often difficult road back to employment.
Results from the first ever Northern Ireland Cancer Patient Experience Survey, found that around 1 in 5 people, who were treated for cancer in Northern Ireland between the ages of 16 and 65, received no information about the impact cancer could have on their work life or education.
On Wednesday, Macmillan hosted a special one-day workshop at Mossley Mill, together with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and NICaN (Northern Ireland Cancer Network). Speakers included the Northern Ireland Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride and Dame Carol Black, Downing Street’s Expert Adviser on Health and Work.
Explaining the importance of receiving the right support, Macmillan’s Strategic Partnership Manager, Paula Kealey, said: “While many people wish to remain in work as they go through treatment, the reality is that it’s often very difficult. Side effects of treatment, such as fatigue and sickness, often make the prospect of going to work almost impossible. Unfortunately, people may feel reluctant to talk to their employer about these issues for fear of losing their job.
“We want to raise awareness of the issues and challenges people affected by cancer can face when it comes to staying in or returning to work, finding better ways to support them throughout their journey from as early a stage as possible and educating everyone along the way, from health care professionals to employers. We want to develop a support infrastructure so that anyone with a cancer diagnosis is helped to stay in or return to work as soon as possible, making the process as easy as possible.”
Adding his support to the initiative, Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “I welcome this project at a time when Northern Ireland faces increasing numbers of cancer cases. Better diagnostics and effective treatments mean more of us are surviving cancer. This is why the Macmillan Work Support and Vocational Rehabilitation Project is so important. We must address the issue of supporting people back to work.
“Whilst for many people, remaining in or returning to work is a financial necessity, for others, work provides health benefits brought about by social inclusion and maintaining a sense of normality. Work can aid recovery and plays an important role in health and wellbeing.”
For further information on work and cancer visit www.macmillan.org.uk/work and for information, guidance and training for employers visit www.macmillan.org.uk/atwork