Why I’m Tired And Bored With UK ‘Cancer Support!’

Why I'm Tired And Bored With UK 'Cancer Support!'

Yes, you have read that correctly. I have been doing this work for more that 10 years now, and many current campaigns I am seeing for the 2nd or 3rd time. They obviously have had little impact with their previous appearances yet decisions have been taken to spend more money bringing them back to the public again. They are all important of course, and public awareness is key, but as a businessman I wonder when you have to admit defeat and do things differently? They all have new graphics, tag lines, public meetings, videos and TV advertising, plus many people from campaigns departments working on them. Look at the cost, all paid for by charitable donations.

Most cancers have an awareness month where their issues tend to get more publicity than at any other time and September is a particularly busy one. Each organisation filling up their communication channels with various asks for the month. Most involving asking for money or raising awareness. It has become so predictable and unimaginative, particularly when they follow the similar formats. Pre set social media posts being sent out at their pre arranged times. As a patient I feel like a sitting duck for all this marketing and I am now starting to switch off myself!

There is one particular charity where I speak personally to specific patients. They were checking their admin and wanted me to complete a whole raft of paperwork if I wanted to continue doing that, as they needed to comply with new data regulations. I decided to cease that role as I no longer wish to be bound up in tireless administration and constant emails! I do understand the need for it of course because I run my own charity, and am bound by regulations too. But we all want to help people as quickly and easily as we can, and not to bore them rigid with endless campaigns and fundraising asks!

Of course we need to raise money and awareness, but in this day and age where almost anything is possible, there must be more imaginative ways of working? One of the biggest conversations I am having with healthcare these days is about social media engagement. Most are not communicating in the way they want with their followers. The answer for me is quite simple! Most current online engagement is reacting to something happening immediately, not an annually prepared month of awareness or campaigns. Pre written posts don’t encourage engagement at all. The channels are full everyday and I often wonder how people select what to actually engage with. It does seem that many of the more corporate brands are losing their way in this area. They seem to have mastered the art of making interesting things bland!

Many large Governmental health campaigns are also suffering in the same way. As calls for measles jabs, routine smear test etc get ignored, and our problems increase. We should be very aware by now that different audiences react to different messages on different channels. If we can change the results of elections around the world by using marketing differently, then I’m sure we could do that to change the world positively for healthcare.

I work very differently to most in the cancer sector, and importantly I don’t have hundreds of staff to manage, and that is my choice! My work is innovative and I can remain agile, with few hoops to jump, and boards to sit with. If it feels right I will put it out there until I can see that it is not! The age we live in now, ideas become old whilst they are being discussed. Sometimes you just have to jump, to see what is below you. I understand why larger organisations cannot work in this way, but there must be a compromise where new ways of working can get off the launch pad quicker?

But doing things differently can be risky, and if it isn’t broke why do we need to fix it? However I believe that things ARE becoming broken and the fear of change will set us back many years if we don’t use technology to think and do things differently. Treatments in the cancer sector are improving all the time, even if we continue to have the constant battles with big pharma. But where are the big improvements for the increasing number of people living with cancer. We are still talking about the cost of cancer, the emotional impact, the physical impact, discrimination in the workplace and from financial organisations. Also early detection for all cancers, with many GPs seeming unable to recognise early symptoms. These are still the same issues I have been talking about for the last 10 years!!

So who is to blame for this? Most people would blame the Government, which is currently easy and common. But I believe that with proper collaborative working between charities and patients, we could/should have changed many things that are still on the list. No business would still be spending money on the same problems 10 years later, it just doesn’t make financial sense!

As always, these are my personal views drawn from my experiences. Please feel free to share your own below.

The Grove Hotel Bournmouth

I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions. 


  1. Hi Chris, there is a certain ennui about it all and if we feel that way then it makes sense that others do too! X

  2. That was my view as well Deb. I didn’t want to feel like that either but it is like watching a roundabout seeing the same things every single year! I really do wonder how much impact these campaigns have now? XX

  3. Hello Chris, I know exactly how you feel
    I nowadays seem to be banging my head against a brick wall. If you need a GP the earliest appointment is in 5weeks time!! I am thankful I had cancer in 2011, if I was starting now it would be hopeless, possibly not told “you are free” the waiting time here now has trebled and it’s not because of more people being ill. All I can say Chris don’t give up, you are too precious to a lot of us. Love to you and your family. xxx Georgine

    • So lovely to hear from you Georgine! Yes things are becoming more difficult by the day. I also think the same as I am in the system and get dealt with efficiently. I am working hard to ensure that there is some improvement but it is a tough job, as you know. Big love to you both XXX

  4. I like and agree with your point about social media. In my thesis I came to the conclusion that it IS an important tool for public health to use but only if it is used to engage in conversation, not just write it into the abyss. It takes time but is powerful.

    • Thanks for sharing your own findings Naomi. Social media is indeed a very powerful tool, but as you state it has to be a 2 way street. Most of the big boys do their lazy broadcasting, which is why the messages are no longer getting through. Like most things in life effective engagement takes time and relies on quality not quantity. Best, Chris

  5. Hi Chris – you have some good points about not doing the same old thing, if it’s not working. A few years ago, I helped a friend who worked for two charities – my job was to trawl a database of Trusts, to find some who would make huge donations to the two charities. It got harder and harder over the course of 6-12 months – and in the end, one of the Trusts, which had previously contributed multiple times, said that they didn’t want to contribute a large amount of money if they didn’t know what it was specifically going to be used for. Doh! I had been thinking the same myself, although as a newcomer I didn’t like to say anything. It’s not an easy thing to fix, perhaps – but simply spending huge amounts of money, advertising in the same old way doesn’t work for anyone.

    • Hi Julia! The example you quote is exactly what I am talking about. Somebody famous once said that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Most large organisations have teams for strategy, social media, and campaigns, most pre planned throughout the year. It’s very difficult to plan for life these days and the most effective engagement is done when things just happen! Of course there has to be a plan, but I question the value of all these teams.

      If things are to change in this very complex sector we need to think much more imaginatively. We have the tools and should stop this lazy and impersonal way of engaging. It doesn’t work anymore. Thanks so much for sharing your own experiences.

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