Tomorrow, 1 August, is Yorkshire Day – always a great moment and opportunity to celebrate the parts of our culture, our heritage and our history that we are most proud of. I’ve always felt that our shared Yorkshire identity isn’t something that can be quantified into graphs or presented on Government balance sheets – it’s an emotional connection that brings together the people of Barnsley and Bradford, Sheffield and Shipley, Rotherham and Ripon and so many more besides. It’s the shared identity that’s expressed on the terraces of Oakwell, Headingley and Elland Road where Yorkshire folk come together in that famous, cross-county chant – “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire” – which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever I hear it. It’s partly why I’ve fought so hard to put the decisions about our region’s future in our region’s hands through unlocking the South Yorkshire Devolution Deal in recent weeks – alongside a commitment to for our Local Authorities and the Government to work on shared, pan-Yorkshire priorities.
Of course, this year, as with so many other events and shared moments, Yorkshire Day will look and feel different. The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted normal life for so many of us and – although we are seeing the (very welcome) gradual reopening of our economy and High Streets – this pandemic and its effects will be with us for some time to come.
One area where that is especially true is, very sadly, in the field of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Research by The Lancet Oncology shows that there could be an estimated 3,500 avoidable cancer deaths over the next five years because of the impact that the Coronavirus has had on our NHS and with patients not getting symptoms checked out. I know from my own personal experience the pain and devastation that cancer causes to families. It’s why figures such as these are hugely concerning and worrying. I’ve always said that early diagnosis and treatment saves lives, so anyone who is worried about symptoms must go and get themselves checked out. It could be nothing to worry about – but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It was great to see, in last week’s Barnsley Chronicle that my old mate Councillor Charlie Wraith had been given the all-clear following treatment for prostate cancer. Charlie’s advice, as usual, was spot on: go and get yourself checked out.
As well as vigilance from patients, we also need to make sure that our NHS has the resources it needs to be firing on all cylinders and working through the backlog of cases. It’s welcome that screenings have now resumed for bowel, breast and cervical cancer but the Government must ensure that waiting times continue to improve in order to save lives, which is why I’ve backed the call for a catch-up premium specifically to support oncology services.
Alongside our NHS, cancer charities do amazing work to support those living with cancer and their families. In our region, we’ve got the incredible Yorkshire Cancer Research who work tirelessly to provide practical support, guidance, understanding and research for the 190,000 people who are living with or have survived cancer in Yorkshire. They support us all year round, so this Yorkshire Day we can do our bit to help them by taking part in ‘Give it Some Welly’ – a virtual welly wanging competition and Guinness World Record attempt. You can play your part by recording a video of you wanging their welly and uploading it to Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Facebook page.
This Yorkshire Day let’s give cancer the boot!
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 31 July 2020.