A consumer voice brings diverse experiences and insights into health care planning – helping to ensure services meet the needs of the public.
“Some people don’t have a voice or are not capable of making decisions, so it’s really important to have someone overseeing improvements, ensuring they are of the greatest possible benefit to the consumer,” says Barbara Bishop, who joined the South Island Cancer Consumer Group (SICCG) a year ago, to provide a voice for the patient. “I’m passionate about the consumer getting a fair deal and a big believer in a system that’s fair for everyone – no matter where they live.”
SICCG works in partnership within the Southern Cancer Network (SCN), and the consumer perspective provides an important platform; guiding development, implementation and improvement of cancer services in the South Island.Barbara has a lot to offer the consumer role, given her experience in health care, on both a personal and professional level. Originally from the UK, she has a nursing and social work background. In 2005, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. At the time, the life-saving drug Herceptin was unavailable, so Barbara started a successful campaign to receive it. In 2007 she wrote a book, The fight of my life, before moving to New Zealand the following year.
During her time with SICCG, Barbara has been involved with the South Island Radiation Oncology Partnership Group’s review of the early breast cancer treatment variation. A standard of care was under development for the South Island and has since been endorsed. Barbara says she can see the benefits for patients and families in the proposed plan. “From a consumer perspective and based on the information provided, it looked like a very effective way of moving forward and reducing areas of variance in treatment delivery for radiation therapy.
“It’s clear that the proposed plan will enable treatment centres to provide a better service to the public by reducing waiting times, resulting in earlier treatments and savings in treatment planning times and clinic costs – without compromising consumer care or outcomes – which is the ultimate result for our people, as well as the health system.”
Marj Allan, Chair of SICCG, says members of the group are engaged in a number of ways, including contributing to focus groups, policy and planning, as well as providing representation on specific projects. “Whether it’s providing recommendations or support for developing pieces of work, they promote the integration of patient and family experiences.”
SICCG is connected to local cancer networks and DHB consumer councils; and is available for consultation on cancer consumer-related issues. The group can be contacted through SCN.