"More people have died from cancer than Covid-19," says outgoing Macmillan director from Bedford

He warns of the impact the pandemic is having on people living with cancer as charity unveils new campaign

By Clare Turner
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 4:15 pm

A senior charity leader from Bedford has warned of the devastating emotional impact on patients and their families of a backlog in cancer diagnoses and treatment that in some parts of the UK, could take "more than a year" to clear.

Retiring as an executive director at Macmillan Cancer Support, John Pearson has highlighted the critical role of the charity’s ‘Forgotten C’ campaign in bringing to the fore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people living with cancer - as well as the 50,000 people who remain undiagnosed because of disruption caused by the health crisis.

He said: “The ‘Forgotten C’ is a brilliant campaign and we mustn’t let go of it.

John Pearson

“I totally understand the national response to Covid-19. But over the period we’ve been focusing on it, more people have died from cancer than Covid-19. In the UK, more than 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each day and that number will only grow as the population ages and more people live longer with chronic health conditions like cancer.

“No-one has deliberately shut the doors to people with cancer and local healthcare operators have had to make very difficult decisions, but it’s only right as a cancer charity we bring to the fore in a very public way the fact the issue is getting worse. In some places, it could take more than a year to clear the backlog in cancer diagnoses and care that the pandemic has created."

John has been leading Macmillan’s cancer support operations directorate for half a decade, transforming national services like the Macmillan Support Line and investing in Macmillan healthcare professionals who in the last year, experienced a surge in demand from people struggling to cope with feelings of loneliness, isolation and fear.

As cancer referrals return to pre-Covid-19 levels and the conclusion of an extended furlough period looms at the end of March 2021, the charity expects to hear from even more people finding themselves in mental and financial distress.

John Pearson has retired as Macmillan’s executive director for Cancer Support Operations, but will continue to support the charity by fundraising with his wife Sue, pictured with him above at the London Marathon

He said: “When I arrived, I was determined to turn the Support Line into a service that was there for people every day. For me, that’s one of the biggest things we’ve achieved since I’ve been here.”

He and his wife Sue have long been part of Macmillan’s band of fundraisers and since 2010, hosted charity balls, festivals and curry nights in Bedford.

Between them, they have also racked up 18 marathons, 10 half-marathons, four ultra-marathons, four cycling challenges and five overseas adventures - raising more than £250,000 for Macmillan, which is equivalent to funding a Macmillan nurse for two and half years.

To donate to Macmillan Cancer Support’s Christmas Appeal, visit here

John and his wife Sue scaled Mount Kilimanjaro to support people living with cancer