Friday, 29 June 2012

From France With Love

The name’s Bond, James Bond. I guess every man wants to say that at least once, and I am quite taken with my new persona. As my very own ‘Bond Girl’ and I passed through five countries (Britain, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and back to France for the particular) in one day yesterday, it certainly felt like we were on something of a mission. And, in a way, that is exactly what we are on – a delicate assignment to get the message out there about prostate cancer. As well as raising funds, hurtling across Europe (400 miles yesterday, complete with a thunderstorm) in a car branded with our new identity, has been a real talking point. Lots of people (no doubt also intrigued by the gold cat-suit of my companion) have stopped to ask what the challenge is about.

The Thunderball Rally has pulled everyone together, in the fight against prostate cancer. Keyline Builders Merchants, our partner, has pulled out all the stops to make this a success. There have been a few road-side casualties as some of the Bond-style cars struggled with the journey, but everyone pitched in to make sure no one was left behind. There is a real sense of camaraderie, and a sense of doing something constructive for men with prostate cancer. I have been struck by the way Keyline has taken this cause to its heart, not only aiming to raise an ambitious £100,000, but ensuring that their largely-male workforce is aware, and stands up together to do more to fight this disease. There is a real formula for success in there – which we need to replicate on a much broader scale.

Back behind the wheel...Switzerland next stop. Not before another night in my tent. Yes tent, (not sure the real Bond would have fancied that), a pop up one I could not assemble sadly. Q would not be proud.

Please don't forget to sponsor us.

Check back tomorrow as we reach the summit of our mission.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Making A New Mark On Prostate Cancer

It has been quite a week in the world of prostate cancer, and for me, personally, as a Chief Executive, in the arena of men's health.

The eagle-eyed will have spotted that we have changed our name and identity. This was a very concious decision to reflect more fully, and with more impact and weight, our growing ambition to change the fortunes of men with prostate cancer once and for all. Reinventing ourselves as a more bold, direct and open organisation is a symbol of a change in stance and direction - and reflective of a new urgency to do more.

We will be putting in place more innovative services to support the quarter of a million men living with prostate cancer today. Our research strategy will focus on better diagnosis and individually tailored treatments, to find the answers for a disease where there are too many unknowns for the future. We will also be making prostate cancer the public issue it needs to be.

The new design reflects our need to present the organisation, and our plans, in a more forceful and confident way. We are raising our voice for men - and we need an identity which will strike a chord with those we need to reach. Our new design, a man composed of many men, 'a man of men', reflects the numbers of men affected by prostate cancer, as well as men coming together to speak up and find solutions. It builds on existing elements but creates something much stronger.

All changes in identity - indeed all change - provokes comment and response. We involved a broad group of people, particularly the men we are here to represent, in the creation of the new look. I have been buoyed by the number of people who have taken the time to let us know they are impressed by the transformation we have made. There are also those who are not so sure. I am just pleased debate is happening around this disease. That is what we need, and we will all have the different views needed to sustain it.

On a very different note - reflecting the ever shifting world of a CEO - I will be on the road for the rest of the week, taking on an epic 007-style race, The Thunderball Rally. I am pleased to be taking part alongside our partner Keyline Builders Merchants, and really proud that this is the first fundraising event for Prostate Cancer UK.

As a twist, the event, which will see us drive across the Swiss alps -without sat nav - to the top of the Bernese Oberland, will be Bond-themed. I will be looking suitably 'shaken not stirred' in a series of Bond-style black tie and jacket outfits. My rally companion, Mark Bishop, our Director of Fundraising, has gamely volunteered to dress as a Bond Girl for the duration. Not exactly the Vesper Lynd of my fantasies, but I am sure it will be an experience - and should raise £100,000 for us overall, which is a fantastic amount.

If you are tempted to sponsor us, please click on the link below. We would be very grateful.

I will be updating my blog as we travel, so do check back tomorrow.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Abiraterone - reaching men who need it most

Abiraterone, a clinical sounding term, but one which has entered the vernacular, at least for the hundreds and thousands of men who have prostate cancer.

The breakthrough drug, which extends life with relatively few side effects, for men with advanced forms of the disease, became a symbol last month - a symbol that the tide is turning on the 'oft-quoted' legacy of neglect around this disease.

When the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced it would not make the drug available on the NHS in England and Wales, we picked up the baton for men, determined to see this reversed. We were joined by a natural groundswell of a powerful group of MPs, journalists, clinicians and, of course, men themselves, determined to see this overturned.

Happily, we were able to argue successfully that this decision was the wrong one for men, and that the drug should rightfully be reviewed as an end of life treatment. At the same time the manufacturer also lowered its price. Abiraterone will now be available for men in England and Wales, later on this year. Articles like this one from Jenny Hope, in the Daily Mail show how strongly feeling ran around this - and the level of cooperation and support for the campaign, fuelled, in part, by a collective indignation that men with this disease have had a raw deal for too long. A rare feat indeed.

But the campaign is far from over. With Northern Ireland expected to follow suit, our attentions are now on Scotland, where the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) is refusing to make abiraterone available to the men who need it north of the border.

It was timely, then, that I was in Edinburgh this week, meeting with Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon MSP to discuss this and other important issues around the disease. Although the Scottish Government would not instruct the SMC to make abiraterone available on the NHS, the Health Secretary did agree to make contact to see if anything can be done to speed up the process (currently due on 13 Aug) and ensure health boards are in a position to get moving should the drug be approved. Good news indeed.

If the past few weeks have taught us anything it is that accepting the status quo is just not acceptable. The rates of prostate cancer diagnosis are rising in the UK - against a backdrop of imperfect tests, complex treatment options that risk unnecessary side effects, and a postcode lottery when it comes to support and information. Nothing short of strident action is needed for the fathers, grandfathers, husbands and best friends this disease affects all too regularly. The victory around abiraterone in England and Wales has to be the beginning - not the 'happy ending'.