We won't let the Government forget its 'war on cancer'
Tuesday 7 February 2023
Just one year ago, the Government launched a 'national war on cancer' including the promise of an ambitious 10-Year Cancer Plan to make England's cancer care the 'best in Europe'. Now they've ditched that plan and instead, cancer will form part of a new Major Conditions Strategy, a five-year plan covering six major conditions including cardiovascular disease, mental health and dementia.
We know a targeted strategy for cancer is the best way to improve outcomes for bowel cancer patients. That's why we've joined with over 60 cancer charities as One Cancer Voice to call on the Prime Minister to take action and publish an ambitious, fully funded, long-term strategy for cancer.
So, what happened?
Last February our Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards, along with other leaders, met with then-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid to celebrate World Cancer Day. The former Minister announced a new plan to tackle cancer and encouraged people affected by cancer to respond. So, we did. The Department of Health and Social Care received over 5,000 responses to their call for evidence from individuals affected by cancer, cancer charities, NHS staff and researchers all with ideas on how England could improve cancer care.
The 10-Year Cancer Plan should've been published last summer. However, just two weeks ago, the now Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay announced that the expected 10-Year Cancer Plan will be replaced by a new Major Conditions Strategy. A strategy which combines six major conditions into one five-year plan.
We welcome the focus on whole-person care, like much of the cancer community, and appreciate the NHS faces challenges beyond specific medical conditions. But we have concerns that the decision to scrap the 10-Year Cancer Plan, and instead include cancer in the new Major Conditions Strategy, could result in a diluted, less ambitious plan for improving cancer care at a time when committed action and clear direction is required.
Why is a plan for cancer so important?
Since the Government announced its 'war on cancer', around 36,000 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer in England with the majority of those cases being diagnosed at a later stage when outcomes tend to be poorer.
We know early diagnosis saves lives and the importance of this was recognised by the Government and NHS England in 2019 who set an ambition to diagnose 75% of all cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028. Despite significant improvements, England still lags behind other comparable countries because we’re poorer at diagnosing cancer at an early, more treatable stage than the best performing countries.
Evidence from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) has found a link between cancer policy consistency over time and cancer survival. This means that a dedicated and long-term cancer plan, such as the promised 10-Year Cancer Plan, is critical to improving cancer outcomes in this country. In the last 40 years bowel cancer survival has more than doubled, but currently less than 40% of all bowel cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage each year.
If we're to meet the ambitions set by the Government, reduce NHS waiting times, improve patient experience and, ultimately, increase survival of bowel cancer we need a fully funded, long term strategy detailing how this will happen.
We need your help
Today we've teamed up with One Cancer Voice, a coalition of cancer charities supporting millions of people affected by cancer, to make sure cancer isn’t forgotten.
Together we've launched a petition calling on the Prime Minister to commit to an ambitious, fully funded, long-term strategy for cancer. The petition, hosted by Cancer Research UK, is being supported and shared by over 60 cancer charities, uniting as #OneCancerVoice. It'll only take a moment to sign, and every signature shows cancer patients now, and in the future, that you deserve better.
Will you make your voice heard and sign our petition to the Prime Minister?
We'll be delivering the petition to the Prime Minister on Wednesday 22 March 2023.