October 4, 2018

Patient-focussed cancer initiative wins the 2018 European Health Award

The European Cancer Concord, involving the Irish Cancer Society and led by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, has won the prestigious 2018 European Health Award. This award honours initiatives that help tackle some of Europe’s most pressing health challenges.

The award-winning project, entitled ‘The European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights: A Catalyst for Change and an empowerment tool for cancer patients across Europe’ involved an equal partnership between cancer patients, healthcare professionals and cancer researchers (over 60 stakeholders from 25 European countries). Among those involved were Joan Kelly, Cancer Support Manager at the Irish Cancer Society, and the late Prof John Fitzpatrick, who held the role of Head of Research in the Society from 2011 up to his passing in 2014.

The European Cancer Concord has proposed the creation of a European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights, to be underpinned by three patient-centred ‘articles’:

Article 1: The right of every European citizen to receive the most accurate information and to be proactively involved in his/her care.

Article 2: The right of every European citizen to optimal and timely access to appropriate specialized care, underpinned by research and innovation.

Article 3: The right of every European citizen to receive care in health systems that ensure improved outcomes, patient rehabilitation, best quality of life and affordable health care.

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair in Translational Cancer Research at Queen’s University Belfast received the award on behalf of the partnership during the opening ceremony of the European Health Forum Gastein, the premier European Health Policy Conference and an official event of the Austrian European Council Presidency, on 3 October.

Professor Lawler commented: “Cancer knows no borders, so it is important that we work together to develop solutions that address cancer inequalities in all parts of Europe. I am immensely proud to be accepting this award, not only on behalf of our team who have worked together over the last five years, but also on behalf of the millions of European citizens who are living with and beyond cancer, and experiencing cancer inequalities every single day of their lives.”   

Margaret Grayson, cancer survivor and Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum, said: “The news that the European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights has received a top European award is wonderful. This collaborative initiative has patients absolutely at its centre.  It is especially pleasing that Professor Lawler will be collecting this award at Gastein, given Northern Ireland's leadership role in the project.”

Working in close partnership with European patient organisations and professional societies has been a key part of the initiative. 

"We at the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) are delighted to be part of this joint success,” Lydia Makaroff, Director of the European Cancer Patient Coalition, added. “The ECPC has been a crucial partner in the European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights since it was launched in the European Parliament on Word Cancer Day in 2014, and has worked tirelessly to find solutions to the disparities that cancer patients experience across Europe.”

Speaking at the award ceremony, Professor Lawler said: “Cooperation is the key to this initiative. We need to compete, not against each other, but against our common enemy – Cancer.” He also honoured three sadly departed  Irish cancer leaders who were involved in the initiative, Prof Donal Hollywood, Prof John Fitzpatrick and Prof Paddy Johnston, hoping that “those three proud Irishmen were looking down on this proud Irishman” as he collected the award.

Commenting on the award Dr Robert O Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society said: “This award recognises the immense work of past and present colleagues to build a truly worthy vision of how we must strive to improve cancer care for all Europeans. Its construction and delivery is the very embodiment of how we will make more cancer advances in the future; patients, researchers and practitioners working together as partners across borders and silos to give the best possible outcome. Just as the Society was a proud supporter of its development so too shall we be a proud partner in making it happen.”

The European Cancer Concord (ECC) was supported by the Society for Translational Oncology and the Morrison Endowment in Leeds.