Real Stories
12 Oct 2016

Tory MP Michael Fabricant reveals prostate cancer diagnosis at PMQs

The flamboyant politician, famed for his blond hair and controversial tweets, used today's prime minister's questions to go public about his diagnosis with the disease and radical prostatectomy, and warned of an NHS shortage in specialist prostate cancer nurses.

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant has publicly announced his diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer in parliament, urging the prime minister to expand the number of urology nurses in the NHS after the "superb" care he received from his cancer nurse specialist.

At today's prime minister's questions, the MP for Lichfield told the House of Commons: "Eighteen months ago my doctor suggested I had a well man check up. It turned out there was a problem with my prostate despite being symptom free."

He went on to thank the Birmingham hospital that treated him before asking his question: "In 10 years, there’ll be a shortage of specialist prostate nurses and doctors. What can the government do to help with future shortage of such staff?"

Theresa May responded that the government is investing in cancer awareness and claimed 50,000 nurses were currently in training to "ensure specialisms are still there".

Urology nurses are patients' first port of call

Before deciding to go public, Michael Fabricant spoke to Prostate Cancer UK about his brush with the disease.

"When I had my prostatectomy, the whole urology team were simply amazing," he told us. "But when it came to all the practical questions that I had about preparing for the operation and the immediate aftermath, my prostate cancer nurse specialist, Richard Gledhill at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, was simply superb.

"In many ways, he and urology nurses like him are the first port of call for prostate cancer patients and are a vital link with the rest of the clinical team. With so many of these specialist nurses due for retirement within the next ten years, it is so important that the government acts to ensure we build on this talented team."

"We echo Mr Fabricant’s calls for the UK government to act quickly to ensure that the right level of workforce is provided for men with prostate cancer"
Angela Culhane Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK

Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "We commend Mr Fabricant for his courage in speaking out about his personal experience of prostate cancer. We also echo his calls for the UK government to act quickly to ensure that the right level of workforce is provided for men with prostate cancer, and urge the prime minister to follow through on her pledge to look at how to improve the situation.

"There is strong evidence which demonstrates that the allocation of a dedicated urology key worker has a positive impact on experience and outcomes for men with prostate cancer, yet the number of cancer specialist nurse posts is too few to ensure good access for all men who need them.

"The current provision is insufficient, caseloads are high and access across the UK varies dramatically. Men with prostate cancer need action on this now."

Half of specialist nurses to leave within a decade

A report from Macmillan Cancer Support has shown that the provision of Cancer Nurse Specialists is the lowest per head for prostate cancer than for any other type of cancer. Meanwhile, our own 2014 survey of just under 300 specialist nurses working with men affected by prostate cancer revealed that almost half said that they were approaching retirement or intending to leave nursing within the next ten years.

With no clear plans for training a new workforce and prostate cancer predicted to become the most common cancer overall by 2030, patients face a future without the experience and expertise these nurses offer.

Prostate Cancer UK is working to highlight issues in variation and inequity in access to Urology Nurse Specialists and other essential key workers. We will work with policy and decision makers across the UK to ensure a sustainable approach to prostate cancer care management is implemented, with a urology CNS workforce large enough to cope with the increased prevalence of the disease.