Every day 32 people in Birmingham and the Black Country are diagnosed with cancer. In this region alone, there are over 273 Macmillan professionals who work to support people affected by the illness and improve the quality of its care.
Sarah Mitchell is a GP at Northfield Health Centre, a PhD student at Warwick University Medical School funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and a former Macmillan GP. Now a Macmillan Alumni Ambassador, she helps new and existing Macmillan healthcare professionals to improve the quality of cancer and palliative care services.
‘Through my experience as a GP I’ve developed an ambition to work towards improving healthcare services, particularly for people who live with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses such as cancer. It’s exciting to work in roles which allow the opportunity to work with patients and families, to carry out research, to learn about the system and politics, and to discover ways in which care can be improved in the future.’
With a special interest in palliative and end-of-life care, Sarah has become an expert in her field. During her time as a Macmillan GP, she became clinical lead for palliative and end-of-life care for Birmingham Cross City and Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Groups. She also helped to make Birmingham and Solihull one of Macmillan’s Specialist Care at Home pilot sites, securing £250,000 in funding to provide the best possible quality of care for people at the end of their lives.
Sarah also works on regional projects and research to help improve the standard of services: ‘I currently co-chair the West Midlands Paediatric Palliative Care Network (WMPPCN), and I’m doing research to look at palliative care service design and delivery for children and young people. Fortunately cure rates for childhood cancer are rising, but children with cancer may need expert symptom control during their treatment, and for a small minority a cure is not possible. At the same time, the number of children and young people with other complex incurable conditions is rising. Good palliative care can help in each of these situations. I’m very privileged to have the opportunity to work with children, young people and families, as well as my colleagues at the WMPPCN, on projects that contribute to improvements in care,’ she said.
Despite a hectic work schedule, Sarah still finds time to fundraise: ‘I have run the Birmingham half marathon and held events at home in aid of Macmillan, including coffee mornings and big nights in.’
No one should face cancer alone. For support, information or if you just want a chat, call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk