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BCNA News 09 Sep 2020

Op-Ed: BCNA’s leadership will ensure patient voices are heard

by Kirsten Pilatti, CEO Breast Cancer Network Australia

BCNA has a long and proud history of having a strong voice on patient or consumer needs. It is, in fact, the foundation upon which we were built. We have never been afraid to speak up and hold strong on the issues that matter to people affected by breast cancer.

The voice of consumers has never been more important than right now. Given the concerns we are seeing and hearing around the drop in early breast cancer diagnoses, along with the impact of treatment on women and men around the country in light of COVID-19, it is clear that we must be the voice.

Our voice is being heard and making an impact not just for breast cancer patients but all cancer patients. Our Director of Policy and Advocacy Vicki Durston (pictured), along with many of BCNA’s Consumer Representatives, is sitting on a range of highly regarded and important public policy groups.

Here is just a small sample of the conversations in which BCNA’s voice is representing those living with breast cancer:

  • Cancer Australia’s COVID-19 Recovery: Implications for cancer care – policy settings for the future.
  • The Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network, a joint initiative of the Victorian Cancer Council Consortium (VCCC) and Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium. The expert panels that BCNA sits on within this are clinical trials, telehealth, patient information and support, breast cancer and the leadership group.
  • The Victorian Ministerial Advisory Committee on Palliative Care, managed by Safer Care Victoria.
  • The NGO Cancer Helpline, led by the Cancer Councils of Australia that ensure trusted, patient driven and evidence information is provided to all Australians.

Our renowned Seat at The Table program and the involvement of trained BCNA Consumer Representatives has been pivotal in ensuring that the longer term impact of COVID-19 on people diagnosed with breast cancer is considered in these critical conversations. It is the outcomes of these discussions that will help shape BCNA’s advocacy priorities in to the future.

What does all this mean?

Where there are decisions being made by the government, hospitals, health services and health professionals, BCNA will make sure that the decision is about the patient. We will make sure that the right investment is made to help respond the many changes that have occurred because of COVID-19. We will make sure that the changes that are made to treatment and care are best for the person diagnosed and their families – not just for the system.

We recently conducted a survey of over 2,300 women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and whose treatment has been affected by COVID-19. It is this data, these stories and the stories of all those who are calling our Helpline that we will use to make a difference. This survey is the largest patient insight in this country. We plan to use this to influence and bring about change for those living with breast cancer today and for those who will receive a diagnosis tomorrow.

Kenneth H. Blanchard has said that the ‘key to successful leadership is influence, not authority’ and BCNA is proud of the influence we are having and must have if we are to ensure every Australian living with breast cancer receives the best care, treatment and support.