Life After Cancer

Regaining Trust in the ‘System’

Posted by Dr Jane Clark on 02 July 2021

This article is adapted by Dr Jane Clark from an article originally written by Jane and Dr Peter Harvey. See our introduction for a background on this series of articles.

It is an unfortunate truth that some people have very bad experiences at the hands of the healthcare system. While this happens to a minority of people, the fact that it happens at all is a bad reflection on the system as a whole.


The sorts of things that happen include a diagnosis being missed, investigations being delayed or cancelled, notes/scans/test results going missing or being held up, clinics being cancelled, treatment being delayed (particularly during the pandemic).

Some people feel that they have not been given the best treatment available or that their treatment has been carried out incompetently. For many people, complaints about the care they receive revolve around the communication process – what they are told and how they are told.


For some people, such negative experiences may never happen, for some it may happen so infrequently as to be tolerated, but for others it can leave a scar which may lead to resentment and distrust. It can also amplify problems in self-confidence (see Moving Forward 12: Regaining Trust in Yourself) and trust in your own ability to monitor your health (see Moving Forward 6: Regaining trust in your body).

If you are one of the unlucky ones, then it is not surprising that your faith in the system might be at a very low ebb. You may find yourself being wary of going to the doctor, being guarded in what you say or in need of some sort of redress for your hurt and pain.

All these sorts of feelings are unpleasant and can get in the way of how you access help and support. Because everyone will have a different set of experiences, there is no one answer to this and how to deal with it. This may be even more difficult if the reason for your upset lies within the people who you might have to keep seeing after your treatment has finished.


You may be able to request to see a different doctor or nurse at the clinic and you can change your GP, if you feel that this is the answer for you. You may make a formal complaint to the hospital or seek legal advice if you feel that there is an issue of professional competence to be addressed.

For many people, taking this course of action is to prevent something untoward happening to someone else. You may choose to do nothing.


Whatever you do it’s probably helpful to talk over you concerns with someone who you trust and can be a sounding board. One of the decisions they may be able to help you with, is sorting out how much priority you give to the issue if there are lots of other things going on.

Dealing with issues like these is tiring and energy-sapping, as well as taking you back to re-live experiences that may be painful and distressing. You may wish to conserve your energies for more pressing or immediate issues and deal with this at a later time. Talking it through with someone who will take it seriously will help you decide what you want to do next – if anything.

Dr Jane ClarkConsultant Clinical Psychologist

Next 14: Regaining Trust in Other People

The information and content provided in this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.

June 2021


Claire diagnosed in 2016
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