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Civil Service

World Cancer Day: Uniting our voices and taking action

Working Through Cancer Network winning the 2019 Civil Service Disability Inclusion award
Working Through Cancer Network winning the 2019 Civil Service Disability Inclusion award

To mark World Cancer Day, the Civil Service Working Through Cancer Network is encouraging staff to raise awareness about prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and the significant value of workplace support groups. 

This year’s theme for World Cancer Day (4 February 2023) is uniting our voices and taking action. As the campaign suggests when we bring like-minded people together to share concerns and drive positive change, we are a united force, significantly increasing the impact of our actions. 

The Civil Service Working Through Cancer Network is now in its fifth year and has representation in more than 30 public sector organisations. Our aim has always been to unite voices so that we can take bigger and more impactful action. 

For example, by joining forces we were able to host a series of Know Your Blood Type events with the NHS Blood Team, recruiting more than 1,000 new blood donors. Working with stem cell charity DKMS we then added more than 500 new stem cell donors. 

Executive Head of Service (Transformation and Partnerships) at Mole Valley District Council and chair of the Civil Service Working through Cancer network
Seonaid Webb, Chair of the Civil Service Working through Cancer network

We united our voices to call for better support at work and acted by co-designing a cancer awareness in the workplace session with Macmillan. This popular training continues to be delivered to hundreds of line managers across the Civil Service, improving the lived experience for people with cancer (and their carers) across many organisations. 

Over the past five years we’ve been delighted that many senior leaders and ministers have offered to take positive action to support our cause. In October for example, we hosted a conversation with Dame Lynne Owens about her recent cancer diagnosis and treatment and the impact this had on her both in-and outside work. The event attracted nearly 1,000 attendees and we were inundated with positive feedback and requests to join the network.

These seemingly simple actions, individually, when combined have created a significant impact. We’re making great headway on our aims to raise awareness and reduce the taboo of talking about cancer, and to improve people’s ability to stay in (or return to) work post treatment.  

This World Cancer Day,  we’re uniting our voices again with a series of virtual events and sessions open to all public servants. We’re delighted to announce some fantastic guest speakers this year, including Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Cathy Brokenshire (widow of minister James Brokenshire), and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu CBE. Join us via Eventbrite - it would be great to see you.

So, to close, we’d love it if reading this article has encouraged you to unite with us and take action. If we were all to commit to one action this World Cancer Day, and to support the Working Through Cancer Network – perhaps attending a cancer awareness session, signing up to be a blood or stem cell donor, or becoming a disability ally to colleagues affected by cancer – imagine the impact we will have across the public sector and beyond!

For anyone who’d like to join the network you can contact us here or follow us on Twitter: @cscancernetwork

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  1. Comment by Suzanne Gooch MBE posted on

    Hard to believe the HO Working Through Cancer network is in its fifth year and we have over 380 members. We are as active as ever in promoting awareness, early detection and screening and have an active buddy support network that provides invaluable friendship and peer reassurance. My overwhelming aim remains that no HO employee who is touched by cancer feels alone , that through our raising awareness campaigns we have saved lives and encouraged managers to be more compassionate and empathetic.

    • Replies to Suzanne Gooch MBE>

      Comment by Seonaid Webb posted on

      Suzanne, we are as ever grateful for your passionate leadership of the HO network (and wider CS network). It is amazing to think that our simple aim to support people five years ago has grown to network that continues to grow and evolve year on year. Thank you.

  2. Comment by Deborah Shaw posted on

    Thanks for such a great blog Seonaid. On behalf of the UKHSA/DHSC network we are pleased to be supporting the events surrounding world cancer day. Sadly, as a network, we are growing every week, but our determination to help each and every colleague through cancer, as a carer or a diagnosis, remains resolute.

    • Replies to Deborah Shaw>

      Comment by Seonaid Webb posted on

      A big shout out to all WTC members in the UKHSA/DHSC, for launching such a motivated and supportive new addition to our network. Every act of kindness you offer adds so much value. Thank you.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Civil Service Working Through Cancer Network for promoting this and for look to educate others about this important issue.

    Unfortunately, a close relative of mine who had bowel cancer passed away one year ago, and so I am conscious on how cancer can have an impact on the lives of all of us.

    Really encouraged that we are having this conversation.

    I must give a shout out to the FCDO Cancer Support Network who have been amazing in assisting colleagues based both here in the UK and overseas.

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Seonaid Webb posted on

      Hello Gavin, I'm so sorry to hear about your family member, but really pleased to hear about the support you got from the brilliant FCDO network. We are only so successful as a wider network because of the amazingly dedicated departmental groups who care so much about their colleagues.

      • Replies to Seonaid Webb>

        Comment by Nikki Evans posted on

        Hi Seoniad,
        As Gavin said, thank you Civil Service Working Through Cancer Network for bringin us all together to unite our voices and taking action. Some terrific speakers for this week!

        Shout out too, to all in the Defence Cancer Support Network members who are bringing people together through 'Cancer Support Cafe's' and other joint activities. Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Heart 2 Heart.

        • Replies to Nikki Evans>

          Comment by Seonaid Webb posted on

          Thank you for highlighting the much wider local activities our fantastic members are also running this month - and to Defence Cancer Support Network colleagues for sharing your good practice support ideas with us all.