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Andy Goram – one NHS cancer scandal among many


THE front page of Monday’s Daily Record announced that former professional footballer Andy Goram has terminal oesophageal cancer.

Aged just 58, the renowned former Rangers and Scotland international goalkeeper told the Record that because of his advanced condition he has declined chemotherapy and has been given only six months to live.

Andy Goram appearing on the front page of a Scottish tabloid is not new. The adjective ‘colourful’ does scant justice to an often-turbulent personal life. 

Goram being well known to more than football fans perhaps explains why, the following day, his condition was the subject of a short segment on radio’s Good Morning Scotland (the BBC’s tartan version of Today).

The item featured a spokeswoman for Cancer Research plus two survivors of oesophageal cancer describing their experiences. Naturally there was much talk of the need to be aware of symptoms and everyone emphasised the importance of urgently seeing a doctor.

However, that discussion and other media coverage ignored the most important element of Andy Goram’s sad story. Which is the Record’s report that initially he had ‘ignored the symptoms after failing to get a face-to-face appointment with his GP . . . it was only when the pain became unbearable and he noticed how thin he’d become that he called the surgery’.

Even then, having ‘lost four stone in four weeks’, he ‘couldn’t get a face-to-face with my GP for two weeks, by which time I was in total agony’. 

This writer does not pass judgment on Goram’s GP practice. Nor is it known whether an in-person appointment when he first tried for one would have significantly improved his prognosis. Nonetheless, in his interview Andy seemed more sanguine than perhaps he should.

More broadly, the publicised plight of Andy Goram is a stark reminder that after two years during which many health centres were fortified from the public, being examined by a doctor remains far from straightforward. To the extent that in January this year, even as Omicron waned, an Edinburgh GP conceded that face-to-face appointments ‘still feel a treat’.  

Around the same time, renowned oncologist Professor Karol Sikora wrote: ‘Even before the Omicron wave, Macmillan estimated that there are roughly 50,000 “missing” cancer patients (those who should have been diagnosed, but haven’t) and 24,000 who have had their treatment significantly delayed. Those numbers are utterly hideous, and I suspect the situation is far worse than we realise.’ 

Of this abandoned multitude, few are famous enough for their suffering to feature on the front page of a national newspaper and be discussed on a flagship news programme. One hoped, therefore, that the high-profile plight of a celebrated sportsman would in Scotland have spotlighted the wider scandal of deadly delayed detections and prompted angry demands for virtual GPs to stop hiding behind laptops and telephones.

So far, though, the commentariat has seemed remarkably untroubled by the most arresting aspect of Andy Goram’s tragic tale – one played out over just a short period, during which we supposedly have been free of the calamitous Covid constraints. Except, it seems, in doctors’ surgeries.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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