The Double-Sided Coin Of More Clients & Increasing Support  


In the first three months of 2019, Wessex Cancer Trust has seen a 28% increase in clients. Commercial business usually thrive when this occurs, but for us, things are slightly different. This puts a huge demand on any charity as the requirement for services continues to grow.

With cancer survival rates doubling over the last 40 years and 1 in 2 people diagnosed with the disease, we are seeing more clients year-on-year at Wessex Cancer Trust.

Increasing survival rates are exactly what we all want to see, but the other side of the coin is less talked about – how can cancer charities cope with so many people relying on services that are not necessarily fully equipped for such a large volume of clients?

“We have had to increase the support we offer and branch out into different areas of support to provide something for everybody,” notices Colette Cowan, Head of Service Delivery.

The increase in need for our services is not only due to more diagnosises than before After clients have completed their chemotherapy and treatment by the NHS, it is often quite hard to adapt back into standard working life again. This means dedicated aftercare.

Colette continues, “You are not always the same person after your diagnosis. So it is normal to need support after that first stage, and after cancer too.

“People are living longer with cancer now, so activities such as walking groups and unique approaches to care are being set up and addressed. We are here for everybody affected by cancer – but everybody has different needs that we need to facilitate. Nobody should go through this process alone, that is why we are dedicated to doing everything we can, no matter the challenges to get there.”


The Challenges Of Inclusivity
Physical treatment is an essential stage in the road to recovery, one which the NHS is magnificent in dealing with. The mental exhaustion of cancer is a big factor too, not just for the client but their entire network. Correct aid and support, both before and after the physical treatment, can change everything. Having someone to drink a cup of tea with is more powerful than we may know. Wessex Cancer Trust is for everyone who has ever been affected by cancer:

“We open our doors to everyone, and considering that 1 in 2 people will get cancer that is a lot of people that need our help. It is a place of solace, and we do our best to give as many people as we can at least one thing to support them. Inclusion is our strength but it can also mean added responsibilities,” explains Sofie Bennett, Head of Development.

With a surge in demand, this puts pressure on any charity behind the scenes. For instance, our services can be costly to run as many people require professional assistance, so the race to keep up with the footfall of people who want help can be a challenge to manage.

“The reality comes down to this – how can cancer charities afford to help more people?”


A Small Fish In A Big Pond
Wessex Cancer Trust will always come down to the community factor of our work. We base ourselves around the local area, and are not a big name to others outside of the regional conurbation.

“Our volunteers come from the local area and we rely on their time and skills so much – we wouldn’t survive without them. They are our heartbeat. Our centres are local, and we are often out and about to raise our profile in public. Smaller charities do not have sizeable marketing budgets, so awareness will come down to us showing our faces and spreading the word,” Sofie says, which she believes is the charity’s strength.

Knowing that more and more people are accessing Wessex Cancer Trust presents a two-sided coin. Whilst the demand is tough to adapt to, it is reassuring to know that people want to use the service and trust it enough to support them.

There comes a time to be real with the situation in hand – if demand becomes overwhelming, steps will have to be taken to prioritise and figure out what can be done to assist as many people as possible. Clients could continually increase, and we need to prepare for that reality. This does not mean people won’t be cared for, this would never happen. It means the care we can offer must be realistic to ensure the longevity of the service:

“We are helping people on a daily basis, and commercial elements aside that’s all we can ask for. We walk every single footstep with others. No one will ever be turned away.” Sofie says.

Being on a smaller scale within the entire charity sector, there will ultimately be responses to a growing number of clients. If the current trends carry on, waiting lists will increase and delays in accessing resources may occur.


Looking Forward
Sofie states, “We have to work resourcefully and still give thousands of people their lives back.”

No matter how large the charity is, a sudden increase of people over a short amount of time is alarming to the allocation of resources. Adapting with the changing times is essential.

“Efficiency is what matters. We need to address the needs of those primary clients with cancer and balance out a realistic way to keep the service thriving for others.”

Understanding that the process is demanding for both clients and charity is a reality we now have to face – not everything can be smoothed out overnight, but we are dedicated to making things work. Not just to keep going, but to thrive. Being reliable, local and resourceful holds the charity up, no matter how large the demand.

Colette concludes, “Everyone who represents us goes above and beyond for any client. It makes us proud to be who we are, and gives us hope for the future. We care. Every day, representing this charity with passion and enthusiasm is the biggest reward we could ask for.

“Wessex Cancer Trust isn’t just a charity to us. It is a place to find comfort, solidarity and peace. We can, and will help no matter what obstacle stands in our way.”

The challenges and opportunities face us all.

The role that cancer charities play within the communities they serve represent the pulse to the connection and support that many of us will require at some point in our lives.