Today we attended the Scottish Parliament for a meeting hosted by Jenny Marra MSP. Jenny was elected to represent North East Scotland in 2011 and maintained her position as a list MSP in 2016. She is currently convener of the CPG on Cancer and was Shadow Cabinet Secretary for health, wellbeing and sport between 2014 an 2015.
At the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2016 a number of new Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) were elected. Many of the new MSPs have limited knowledge of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. We wanted to try to address this through an educational roundtable discussion looking at trends in rising incidence, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Given the rising incidence of melanoma, the roundtable provided a timely opportunity to discuss melanoma in Scotland in terms of the impact on patients, the outcomes and survival rates. There was also the chance to examine the restrictions being imposed by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) in terms of access to some melanoma treatments.
We were joined by a number of MSPs and Professor Jeff Evans, who many of our patients will be familiar with. Jenny Marra opened the discussion by thanking all attendees and introducing Gill Nuttall and Professor Evans.
Gill started the discussion by giving brief information about Melanoma UK, how our organisation started and talked about the devastating time that some patients and families can go through after a diagnosis, particularly once the disease has become advanced. She also spoke of the 22.5% increase in melanoma between 2004 and 2014 and the 174 deaths from melanoma in 2015.
Professor Evans then introduced himself and talked about his work as a Professor of Translational Cancer Research & Director Institute of Cancer Sciences and several other posts that he holds. He provided a valuable insight into melanoma and the issues that he has faced as a clinician over his career. He gave a lot of information about the various treatments in melanoma and talked of his personal experiences in treating people with melanoma, the severity of the impact of the disease, treatments and pathways for advanced disease and some of the challenges faced by healthcare professionals in Scotland. He explained to the meeting the often very difficult cases that he sees, of mucosal melanoma, uveal melanoma and the challenges faced when faced with those patients.
The MSPs that we spoke to were very engaged and asked some interesting questions. One of the issues raised was awareness of melanoma and it was felt that greater awareness in Scotland is something we all ought to be thinking about.
It is always useful to engage with parliamentarians and to find out how much they really know about the issues faced by their constituents.