Macmillan Primary Care Conference 2023

Published: 07 December 2023

The Macmillan Primary Care Conference brought together more than 150 healthcare professionals in the Primary Care sector. Dr Anthony Cunliffe shares some key learnings from the event.

Dr Anthony Cunliffe

Dr Anthony Cunliffe Part-time GP, joint clinical director of South East London Cancer Alliance; National Lead Medical Advisor and Clinical Adviser for London Macmillan Centre of Clinical Expertise

Embedding best practice in cancer care in Primary Care settings

Primary Care teams are the only Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) that are involved in the entirety of a person’s experience with cancer.


From supporting engagement with screening programmes, to when someone presents with symptoms or concerns about cancer, ensuring people are referred as early as possible so that they can receive an expedited diagnosis or be reassured that they don’t have cancer, through to supporting people going through treatment and living beyond cancer.


With the introduction of new roles in Primary Care teams such as social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches and allied healthcare professionals across the UK are in a more robust position to ensure that people have the support they need, at the time they need, and from the most appropriate professional.



Key takeaways

The conference included plenary sessions and workshops covering a range of different subjects including an update on some of the newer developments in cancer treatments such as genomic profiling and immunotherapies, the use of digital technologies in supporting person-centred care, a focus on how some of the newer Additional Role Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) roles can ensure we provide more holistic care, and how to deliver high quality cancer care reviews and needs assessments. 

"It was a really special event with an air of palpable passion and enthusiasm from all."


"As a GP working in cancer care, I was delighted to have the opportunity to plan and host this event and convene a diverse range of healthcare professionals from across the UK into one room to debate, share and be inspired by best practice cancer care in the Primary Care setting."




Some of the most notable highlights were:

1. The importance of working as a collective Primary Care team

There was great attendance on the day across multiple different roles including GPs, Practice Nurses, Care Coordinators and Social Prescribers.

For me, it was the first time being in a room with such a multi-disciplinary Primary Care representation with a mutual respect and understanding of the vital role that each member of the team plays in supporting people living with cancer, including many other roles that weren’t there in person but were equally recognised.

By understanding the different skills and expertise we all bring to our teams we can, at a time when capacity is so stretched, work together more efficiently to ensure the people we care for are supported through every step of their experience with cancer.


2. The importance of hearing from people with lived experience

As always, the panel session where we heard from people with lived experience of cancer was the highlight of the day and emphasised the importance of listening to people’s stories in order to identify how we can provide better care.

All those who shared their experiences were grateful for the care their Primary Care teams had provided, but at the same time were able to constructively highlight how things could have been done better.

One clear message that came through for me was the importance of continuity of care where possible within our Primary Care teams and that this doesn’t necessarily need to be the GP. Another message was the ongoing challenges that some people still find regarding access to Primary Care and that, despite significant efforts, we haven’t always got this right yet.

It was a clear reminder of the need for recognition that health inequity remains a significant issue and that people from marginalised groups may find it harder to engage with or feel trusting of the health system, and that this issue needs an acute focus in everything we do. 



3. The need for tailored education

As Primary Care professionals we are generalists and so our educational needs are wide. We are also multi-disciplinary which can make finding education that is targeted and relevant to multiple roles difficult.

Organisations like Macmillan need to ensure we are hearing from the different health professional roles who are directly working with people living with cancer to ensure that we are developing the right practical education at the right level and can be beneficial in day-to-day work and result in positive impacts. You can find information on our current educational offers on our Learning Hub.


As someone who believes deeply in the uniqueness and essentiality of Primary Care, I look forward to more events like this where we can gather as multi-disciplinary teams to highlight and celebrate the breadth of skills and expertise that can lead to improved outcomes and quality of life for people living with cancer.