In my last post I talked about taking part in the Manchester 10k to raise money for the Christie. Just for the record I did do the run finishing in 44m30s and have so far raised around £1.5k - www.justgiving.com/richardleese2012 is still open though. I was running in memory of my mother who died of cancer eight years ago, but like everybody else, have lost dozens of relatives, friends, and colleagues to cancer over the years, some at a relatively young age. The sad death this week of former Manchester resident, songwriter and singer, Robin Gibb, who lost his battle with cancer at what is now the relatively young age of 62, is a very high-profile reminder of what a big killer cancer is.
Later today I will be appearing before the Council's Health Scrutiny Committee to answer questions about the work of the recently established Health and Wellbeing Board. The board brings together the Council, the GP chairs of Manchester's three clinical commissioning groups, along with senior representaives of health providers, the NHS, the voluntary sector, the adults and childrens safeguarding boards, and, when its up-and-running, Healthwatch. Although the Board arises out of one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation of recent years, the members will still be doing their utmost to make sure that health and social care is organised in the best way possible both to prevent ill-health in Manchester and to treat it effectively when it happens. There are some big challenges in this, not least the financial challenges. The Board met yesterday with some big items for discussion, the biggest being Safe and Sustainable, a Greater Manchester-wide programme for whole system change in Health which will begin a lengthy public consultation in the summer. Not surprisingly, one of the eight work streams identified in the programme is around how we deal with cancer.
There is a very direct link between smoking and cancer, and smoking-related illness is still the biggest cause of premature death in the city. We have had some success over the last few years in reducing the number of smokers, and all the Councils across Greater Manchester are supporting a plain packaging campaign, something that has been shown to reduce smoking elsewhere by preventing tobacco companies marketing cigarettes as trendy or even sexy. I read in the MEN that when this was debated in Tameside, one Councillor appeared to be proud of smoking when pregnant, and proud of exposing her children when born to smoke filled rooms believing that no harm was done. I do believe people should be free to make their own choices when it comes to smoking, but they shouldn't impose those choices on others and they should be informed choices. I am appalled that on such an important matter, an elected Councillor should display such a frightening level of ignorance.