One man shares his views about how NHS services where he lives should change.

A man from Somerset who has been battling cancer for over 50 years believes people who rely on public transport to get to health services are at a serious disadvantage in the county.

Steve Sharples, who lives near Somerton, was first diagnosed with bladder cancer 50 years ago.  After treatment he was cured until two years ago when the bladder cancer came back.  He has also had skin cancer and problems with his lymph nodes.

77-year-old Steve said: “I have had plenty of first-hand experience of health services both here in Somerset and also in the West Midlands where I previously lived.

“I can still drive but people living in more rural areas of Somerset who have to rely on public transport to get them to hospital, are at a serious disadvantage.

“For example, I live in a small village called Long Load and there is no public transport as such.  The patient would have to do one of two things – firstly rely on friends to take them to hospital or order and pay for a ‘Nippy’ bus to take them to Martock at a cost of £1 each way and then wait for a connection from Martock to Yeovil Hospital.

“For the return journey, the patient would have to ring the Nippy bus and ensure that it will be in Martock when the bus from Yeovil arrives, as the duration of waiting and treatment time is unpredictable.”

The NHS Long Term plan includes a variety of ways in which support across the country can be improved, including how services can give people greater control over their care.

Steve is sharing his views to inform how changes set out in the NHS Long Term Plan will be implemented where he lives.

You now have the opportunity to share your views about what would make care better for your community.

Survey closed 30 April 2019

Healthwatch Somerset volunteer Steve, who is married to Barbara with two sons and two grandchildren, found the cancer had come back after a routine check-up at his new GP surgery in Somerset.

He explained: “As part of the registration process, a urine sample was taken and this came back with blood traces which later led to the discovery of a growth in my bladder.  I was shocked the cancer had returned, but on reflection I had been here before and won – this time I could and did win again.

“On each occasion when I was given the news of cancer, I was reassured that the condition was treatable and very likely curable.”

Steve is now on a three-month watch list for his skin cancer and a 12-month recall for the bladder cancer.  He is now actively involved in volunteering for health-related organisations and is encouraging others in the community to share their views on the NHS Long Term Plan.

He said: “None of my treatment for cancer could be improved, neither surgery or care or hospital.  This was excellent!  However, looking at how the NHS Long Term Plan can be implemented locally, I would like to see out of hospital care improved.  I think that in many cases if the patient has had an operation or his condition is such that they can be treated and cared for at home, it can improve the healing rate to be back home as soon as possible.

“Health services should ask patients what they want and if possible, give it to them.  For example, my brother recently died from cancer and in his final days, he requested to die at home.

“This was arranged, and a bed and the other things were delivered to his home and set up for him.  A few days later he died as he wished at home with his children around him.”

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