ECCO today is focusing on what we can do as the 25-member society’s cancer organisations for multidisciplinarity to improve cancer care but not as monodisciplines but together, and we do this also very strongly together with patients. Patients are involved in all our activities and if we say what we should focus on, that would be quality in cancer care and also on policy topics – how we can speak as a united voice, which of course we still don’t do. Some are not part of what we’re doing, that tradition, and some organisations go by themselves. But it’s the intention we have to speak for the cancer professions in Europe.
How will you address the diversity of countries within the guidelines?
By different kinds of projects that the member societies have actually voted for. We looked at what had the highest priority among all the member societies. The smaller and more specific projects like looking at cancer nursing in Europe, some countries like the UK and Scandinavian countries, have cancer specialists and other countries, big countries like Germany, don’t have that kind of system. The question is what does this mean for the care of cancer patients? What does it mean in the form of quality? So that’s a project that our nursing organisation, EONS, and we are running right now. To me, the most positive and extremely important project is what we call the Essential Requirements for Quality Cancer Care. So we take a tumour disease, last year we took colorectal cancer and we took sarcoma, and all member societies come together and we discuss what kind of unit, what kind of hospital, should every European patient have the right to ask for when they are suspecting a cancer diagnosis or when they are diagnosed with, for example, colorectal cancer. What has to be there and if that unit doesn’t have this facility, or the competence, then they need to show that they can network with other hospitals so that the patient doesn’t feel that they’re coming second to what they deserve. We don’t call them minimal requirements, we call them essential. We think it’s something that is not very difficult to achieve if we can just get better, more even, healthcare throughout Europe.
Could you discuss your involvement with patient empowerment?
When we changed our vision about what we want to do it became obvious that we must involve patients much more. We formed a Patient Advisory Committee; it’s fifteen organisations. The chair there has a voting position in our board and is also one of the three in the nominating committee for the next ECCO president. So from the beginning we’ve shown that patients are important for the direction where we are going. Then they can propose projects that ECCO should work with, but they always propose members, people who participate, and when we do something they always have a possibility to change while we are underway. We professionals have a tendency to think about our rather narrow speciality and we need somebody who reminds us, and patients are excellent in doing that. But they are not coming in as consultants, they are not coming in late. They are really in the beginning, before we get out on the wrong way. They’ve had a big influence in ECCO the last year, and they have a big influence in our congress, the congress that we think should be set very much on the need, demands, the wish of what our patients want to see and want us to discuss.
What will be ECCO’s involvement in the future of this?
Hopefully we can evolve in this direction. I know there are many professions who would like to see us do that. I think we over the next two years can start to clarify what kind of projects and what we prioritise, but we must of course then reach outwards. That’s when we start to speak with a united voice. It must be known that we don’t represent one organisation, but really the cancer community. If that is known then I really think ECCO has a very important role in Europe. For that I’m optimistic, but nothing in Europe goes very fast these days.