One of the UK’s largest cancer charities, Macmillan Cancer Support has a history going back over a century. Unlike other cancer charities which focus on research into the disease or raise awareness of causes of cancer, McMillan’s emphasis is firmly on support for people suffering from cancer and their families. The charity is named after its founder, Douglas Macmillan, who created “The Society for Prevention and Relief of Cancer” in 1911. The charity has used several different names through its history but is now officially known as Macmillan Cancer Support in recognition of its key role of providing support to people affected by cancer, both practical and emotional.
The most well-known service offered by Macmillan is the Macmillan nurse, a qualified nursing professional who work in the community or in NHS hospitals. Macmillan nurses are specialists in their field; all have at least five years’ general nursing experience and have completed additional specialist training in pain management and psychological support for people diagnosed with cancer and their carers. There are over 4,500 Macmillan nurses working across the UK. Many Macmillan nurses concentrate on palliative care for those patients whose cancer diagnosis is terminal, but the charity also supports other nurses to support families with a child diagnosed with cancer, or to support any age of patient through chemotherapy.
In addition to the Macmillan nurses, the charity runs a telephone helpline and online forum to enable cancer patients and their families access information and support, or just to chat with other people in the same situation. The charity runs information centres staffed by experts not only in cancer but also in the practical issues which might affect someone diagnosed with cancer such as financial issues or hair loss. Macmillan cancer information leaflets produced by the charity are common sights in doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and A&E departments up and down the country, noticeable with the charity’s very distinctive green branding.
Although Macmillan nurses, leaflets and information points are commonly found in NHS hospitals or hospices, the services are not funded by the state but by the charity. Macmillan runs both local and national fundraising campaigns to raise funds to support its nurses and other projects. Unlike other major UK charities, Macmillan doesn’t have a network of charity shops, and instead concentrates on other ways of raising funds. Their highest profile project is the annual World’s Biggest Coffee Morning event, which encourages supporters to get together with friends and family, have a coffee and some cake, and encourage donations to the charity. Macmillan is also behind the “Sober October” event, which encourages both people to give up alcohol for the month in recognition of the effect drinking can have on risks of developing cancer and as a way of raising funds and promoting awareness of the charity and its aims. Macmillan also organises many sporting events such as 5k runs, cycling events or marathon runs. As with other major charities, Macmillan encourages donating by direct debit, and legacy giving through wills and bequests.