Elimination of cervical cancer? It's possible within my lifetime.
Since joining Jo’s in early summer 2021 it is fair to say it has been a whirlwind. I’ve seen first hand the impact of the pandemic on cervical cancer and prevention services across the country and hear from many who have been affected. As a result of the pandemic, the income we rely on was badly hit. At the same time so much progress has been made, with research into the efficacy of the HPV vaccination in preventing cervical cancer was released in November followed by a celebration of one year since the launch of the WHO Global Elimination strategy for cervical cancer, an ambitious plan to eliminate cervical cancer (<4 per 100,000 of women) through vaccination, screening and treatment.
"I’m excited by the future."
There is momentum building to reduce the impact of cervical cancer but we need to be in the best shape possible as a charity in order to play our part in this. Since I started I have been listening to staff, supporters, users of our services as well as those who do not currently reach out to Jo’s. So what have I learned about Jo’s? We do many things really well. We listen to the voices of those for whom we advocate. Our community is firmly at the heart of shaping our services or services provided by others, and their experiences and feedback propels us to campaign for change. We produce high-quality, easily understood and accessible health information for patients, loved-ones and health professionals. We provide opportunities for women and people with a cervix affected by HPV, cell changes or cervical cancer to talk to others who are in the same position, gain support, information and friendship. We are rightly proud of the strong reputation we have built up over the years but we are not complacent; there are things we recognise we need to improve upon if we are to grow, to support more who need us and to play our part in the elimination of cervical cancer in the UK.
We have grown fast as an organisation. This has led to some amazing opportunities and successes, however some essential processes and infrastructures have trailed behind. It is systems such as our IT infrastructure which are critical to our work and in we which we need some investment to ensure we are a sustainable organisation that can support growth and the digitalisation we want to bring to our services. We have amazing staff and volunteers but it is more important than ever, with recruitment and retention so difficult across sectors, to ensure we are developing and supporting our team.
Of course all this takes money.
"Having worked previously for both national and local charities, I was amazed how much Jo’s achieves with so little income."
It means our supporters can know that their money really does go where it is needed most, but we could deliver so much more to the ever-growing number of people who come to us each year for support if we could raise even more money.
Finally diversity and inclusion. We need to shape ourselves to be a far more diverse and accessible organisation. We have started work on this (subject of a subsequent blog) and are aware that we need to do much more. Women and people with a cervix across the UK need access to the support of Jo’s; we also need to provide support to enable barriers to screening and vaccination to be removed.
The majority of the Jo’s staff are no longer based in London, we are across the UK. We are still getting used to being a largely remote organisation but this brings many opportunities. It is important that we are visible, and effective in the communities across the countries and communities where we are most needed and where we can have greatest impact.
Our current strategy comes to an end this year. The priority for 2022 is the creation of the new Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust long-term strategy and this will involve us talking to as many of you as possible to understand what we should and should not be doing over the coming years. I like to think of Jo’s as a ‘boutique’ charity – we are experts in what we do, and we do it well. We will lead the calls for eliminating cervical cancer in the UK and be a driving force for action but it is something that we need others to join us in.