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Day in the life: Working for a cancer charity

Age: 51

Role: Joint chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, and practising GP

Place of work: Three days at Macmillan, and two sessions at Parks Medical Practice in Rochester, Kent

Hours worked a week: 60-70

Best thing about your job: Helping GPs, specialists and cancer patients work together

Worst thing about your job: Not enough hours in the day


My day begins with a cup of tea from my husband. He knows this daily gesture brings many ‘Brownie’ points.

This is followed by the ‘battle over the bathroom’ with the three men in my family, my husband and my two teenage sons. The boys spend ages in the bathroom so I normally have to hurry them along.   


Today I’m working at Macmillan’s offices in Vauxhall, affectionately known as UKO. Today I’m taking the train – it’s an hour and a half commute from Ebbsfleet to London or if I’m working at the practice, the commute is replaced by a 10 minute drive.


I arrive at my desk, grab a cuppa, check my emails and see what meetings I have scheduled for the day. 


My first meeting of the day is with Celia Ingham Clark, National Director for Reducing Premature Deaths for NHS England. We discuss a range of practical tools that Macmillan offers GPs to help them identify cancer warning signs and diagnose people earlier.

Cancer patients have a greater chance of survival if they are diagnosed via GP referrals rather than emergency readmissions so it’s important that our tools are designed by GPs, for GPs.

I tell Celia about our new electronic cancer decision support tool, which alerts GPs to patients at high risk of cancer using a % risk score. This will be rolled out nationally in April.  The pilot showed these risk scores made a notable difference to GPs in deciding who to refer, which is very encouraging.


Afterwards I catch up with Jane Maher, who shares my job with me. She’s Macmillan’s other joint CMO and she works as an oncologist part-time. 

Our main priority is developing innovative and practical ways to get GPs and specialists communicating better when treating cancer patients. As we both work in primary and secondary care settings, we are in the fortunate position of being able to share expertise from both perspectives.

Recently we worked with GPs and oncology clinicians to create a new treatment summary form. This is completed by the hospital at the end of primary treatment and sent to the patient’s GP with a copy to the patient. The treatment summary form gives us GPs the relevant information we need to best support our patients.


After lunch at my desk, I meet with four Macmillan GP advisers who work in London to discuss Macmillan’s annual primary care conference. The conference enables our network of over 150 GPs to come together to share skills and learn more about cancer.


I spend the rest of the afternoon in meetings with our early diagnosis team. I offer them advice on how they can best engage with GPs and help them understand the reality of working in primary care.


Normally I head straight home after work, but sometimes I have a late meeting. If I’m out, I text the boys to say there’s pizza and garlic bread in the fridge. They text back ‘LOL’, which makes me smile.

At home, my husband (himself a chief clinical operating officer at a local CCG) chats with me about how each of our days went, and I start cooking. I have to physically extract my two teenage boys from their computers when it’s dinnertime.


After we eat, I help one of them revise for a German exam he has to do the following day, which he forgot to tell me about. I regularly work in the evenings.

I regularly work in the evenings. Today I check my emails before heading to bed at 11:30pm.


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