Reaching the Hard to Reach

4th & 5th November, Leeds

Thank you to Professor Galina Velikova and her team for hosting a successful and lively 2008 annual conference in Leeds. Delegates got to enjoy typical local fare with the customary Yorkshire Pudding making an appearance at the evneing dinner. An energtic ceilidh band provided enteratinment and vigorous encouragement for folks to find their dancing feet!

Over the two day event some 91 delegates braved the first snowfalls of the Winter to hear keynote lectures, presentations of the latest studies, and engage informally in debate on the challenges of ‘reaching the hard to reach’. Sadly the first keynote speaker Dr Harry Burns was stranded in Glasgow by the weather. However, as a last minute replacement Dr Penny Wright was able to deliver a talk utilising the Lauria et al (2001) framework to highlight how people may respond psychologically and socially to a diagnosis of cancer and discussed the development of the ‘Social Difficulties Inventory’ intended as an additional tool in screening for distress. Professor David Cameron, Director of the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) delivered the second keynote speech and focussed on where psychological and quality of life research fits into the activities of the NRCN. Mrs Barbara Monroe, Chief Executive of St Christopher’s Hospice, London, gave the final keynote lecture. Directly addressing the theme of the conference she highlighted how end of life care is still inadequately delivered in many areas of Britain, especially if the dying person comes from one of the hard to reach groups such as an ethnic minority or those with mental health problems. There were an excellent set of proffered papers presented orally by predominantly young researchers suggesting the field is attracting newcomers. A further 41 submissions were presented as posters. All of which made judging the prizes a challenge. The winners were: Newcomers cup – Emma Blows: Information and support needs of Asian and African Caribbean women with breast cancer: An exploratory study of the suitability and accessibility of services provided by cancer charities; Walker cup (experienced presenters) – Christine Campbell: Strategies to improve uptake of colorectal cancer screening in South Asian and lower income groups – a qualitative study; Best poster – Sheila Fisher et al: PROs in Head and Neck Cancer: Patients’ Views on Questionnaires and Consultation Priorities and Content. The conference also saw the launch of the new BPOS website.

It was not possible to let the details and implications of the recent announcement by Cancer Research UK (Nov’08) of its new five-year strategic plan go unacknowledged. The plan refocuses the resources of the biggest cancer charity in the UK on prevention, early diagnosis and curative treatment of cancer with the discontinuation of funding of psychosocial oncology, quality of life, and doctor-patient communication research. The impact of this on the psychosocial oncology research community and all that it serves will be played out in the coming months and years. Nevertheless, in the wake of this, many healthcare professionals and services users have already passionately expressed their support for the need for psychosocial oncology to continue to thrive. Strength is likely to be found in numbers and the hope will be that individuals, societies, and professional organisation will pull together to turn these difficult times into positive outcomes.