Day in the life of Macmillan’s head of services

Janice Preston is responsible for overseeing all of Macmillan’s services in Scotland and has a role in identifying new opportunities for service delivery and growth. She is also leading the writing of the first Macmillan strategic plan for Scotland. Indeed, meeting others who can support the Macmillan vision in Scotland and can join with us to make a real difference to the lives of people with cancer is her favourite part of the job.

“Macmillan wants to make sure no one in Scotland has to face cancer alone and a key part of my role is to make this a reality. I am keen we spread good services across Scotland whilst also helping to deliver on pioneering projects which test new ways of working and which could be used elsewhere in the UK, such as our Transforming Care After Treatment and community volunteering programmes.

“I love seeing how a service takes shape and develops from just an idea into a reality which makes a difference to people’s lives. I am proud that Macmillan has been able to be there for so many people affected by cancer who needed help, but there is still much more we can do.

“The truth is that too many people are missing out on the support they need, simply because they don’t know it’s there. So I need to make sure that on a practical level, the way we expand our programmes and the work we do means that everyone who needs it has the level of support they need.

“As part of this, I oversee the work carried out by our service teams in Scotland – from our Improving the Cancer Journey programme in Glasgow (ICJ) to our development of different service approaches in the Western Isles.

“I make sure we get the best return that we can from our investments in these programmes, ensure partners align their resources alongside our own. I also make sure our partners feel shared ownership of the success– in terms of the support we provide to people, the amount of people we reach and the impact and influence our work has on cancer care and support in the area.

“A key part of my job involves challenging the status quo and taking risks. I’m always asking the question of my team and of our partners in health and social care or other third sector providers ‘Can we do this differently?’. I’m a firm believer that if we carry on doing things the same way we have always done, nothing will change and the rising number who need support living with their cancer will get less of a service over time, as current resources get stretched further.

“I am also keen not to duplicate work that is already being done and so we focus on creatively responding to the gaps in support, or improvements we can make to existing services. Often small changes, instigated by feedback from peopled affected by cancer themselves, can create big improvements as they see things from a different perspective. I wholeheartedly want to make sure we co-produce solutions and improvements with people who are recipients of the services we are developing.

“Meeting people and networking within and beyond Scotland brings interest in trying out new approaches in Scotland. Scotland is just small enough to get things done but large enough to be a great test bed for the rest of the UK and beyond.  One conversation leads to another, leads to another and it is my job to join up all the dots, so the team in Scotland can drive positive changes in a cohesive way and share our learning.

“I have been at Macmillan for 12 years now, having started in the West of Scotland with the service team. In that time I have seen a lot of change, both within Macmillan itself, but also in the way people affected by cancer are cared for and supported. As a charity we are hugely aspirational and ambitious to make sure people have the support they need from diagnosis, and I have a role as a senior leader within Macmillan.

“This does involve the writing of Macmillan’s first Scotland specific strategy, and at the moment some of my time is spent travelling between Scotland and our head office in London, to help shape this and ensure Scotland gains from the wealth of knowledge and know how we hold across the whole organisation. I’m very excited that the Scotland strategy is being created – it shows that Macmillan recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cancer care and support.

“Cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be, which unfortunately means that many of those living with cancer will be coping with the long term effects impacts of the disease – from the physical and emotional to the financial and practical – long after treatment has ended. As a charity we need to do things differently too, to make sure we are changing the services we provide, to reflect the needs of the people we are trying to help. Then, we will be one step closer to making sure no one in Scotland faces cancer alone.”

By Janice Preston