Last week, Sarah Atherton MP met with Mal Williams and Phil Jones of the Wrexham Prostate Cancer Support Group, on the same day that King Charles III received treatment for an enlarged prostate. Ms Atherton has previously facilitated grant funding for the group.
The Wrexham Prostate Cancer Support Group was set up ‘to raise public awareness and promote the cause of prostate cancer, to provide support for those men who have prostate cancer or suspect that they may have symptoms.’ The group meets at the Trevor Arms in Marford once a month to support fellow members and listen to expert advice from visiting speakers, who are often clinicians involved in prostate care. The next meeting will take place on 07 February at 19:00 – please do feel free to go along.
Through multiple fundraising efforts, the group has raised almost £80,000, meaning it can purchase an advanced Cryotherapy machine for Wrexham Maelor Hospital. Cryotherapy, which is a treatment to freeze prostate tissue and destroy cancer cells, is just one of several treatment types available to patients. However, this is not currently in place due to a lack of a licensed clinicians to use the equipment, meaning that patients have to travel elsewhere to access the care. Ms Atherton has written to the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to see how this can be resolved.
The group is now seeking to support the Urology Department at the Maelor to become a Centre of Excellence for the treatment of prostate cancer in North Wales.
During the course of the meeting, Wrexham’s MP discussed concerns regarding NHS waiting times in Wales. Healthcare services in Wales are devolved meaning that they are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government’s target that 75% of patients in Wales should begin treatment within 62 days of cancer first being suspected has never been met by a health board. 41% of patients currently exceed this target which could have a detrimental effect on their treatment and outcomes.
The group added that Wales is the only country in Great Britain not to have the facilities to administer High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) therapy for prostate cancer, which uses powerful sound waves to heat and destroy cancer cells in the prostate. Despite it being the responsibility of the Welsh Government, Wrexham Prostate Cancer Support Group has set its sights on securing approximately £400,000 to bring the advanced treatment to Wales. Ms Atherton has wished the group luck in securing this funding.
An additional concern raised by the local support group was that North Wales patients, who require a prostatectomy, often travel to London, in a hire vehicle driven by a voluntary service driver, due to the extensive waiting times in Wales.
The group also raised concerns that some local GP surgeries have reportedly prevented eligible men, who are aged 50 or over, from accessing PSA testing. Any man can make an appointment with their GP to discuss having the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. If you are aged 50 or over, please speak to your GP bout a PSA test. These are free on the NHS and involve a simple blood test.
For more information, please visit: prostatecanceruk.org.
Sarah Atherton MP commented:
“It was inspiring to meet, once again, Mal Williams and Phil Jones of the Wrexham Prostate Cancer Support Group. They are both community champions and the group does such valuable work, including raising tens of thousands of pounds, to raise awareness of prostate cancer. Their service to our community is a lifeline to many people in Wrexham.
“Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in UK men. In light of this, I would encourage every man who is concerned or has detected any symptoms of prostate cancer, to contact their GP.
“With that said, I am concerned that so many cancer patients in Wales are having to wait much longer than the Welsh Government’s target time before they begin receiving treatment. The Welsh Labour Government must take responsibility for the Welsh health service and stop failing cancer patients here in Wrexham.”
Phil Jones, Secretary at Wrexham Prostate Cancer Support Group, commented:
“We received the warmest of welcomes and it was a great opportunity to share the group’s work with Sarah. Naturally, we covered the positives and progress in terms of reaching a £60,000 target to purchase new technology at the Maelor and extending our group membership base to 80.
“We highlighted to Sarah that there is not one piece of technology in place at Wrexham to treat prostate cancer patients. Although some opportunities are available at Glan Clwyd and Bangor Gwynedd, there are very lengthy wait times to receive treatment. In recent weeks, several of our members have been sent to London in a Hire Car, had the treatment, and returned home by hire car three days later – not exactly the ideal scenario. We were encouraged to provide a priority list of where we felt Sarah could help us move our agenda forward and we look forward to receiving her support.”