Cancer Research UK has today set out how the next UK Government could dramatically improve cancer outcomes and prevent 20,000 cancer deaths a year by 2040. Ahead of the next general election, the charity has published an ambitious cancer plan which, if adopted, would ensure UK is amongst the best in the world for cancer survival by 2035.
“Longer Better Lives: A Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care” has been developed with the insights of cancer patients and experts from across health, life sciences, government and academic sectors.
“Cancer is the defining health issue of our time,” says Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.
“Avoiding thousands of cancer deaths is possible, but it will take leadership, political will, investment and reform.
“The impact of cancer is immense. We estimate that half a million people – friends, colleagues and loved ones – will be diagnosed with the disease every year by 2040. Their lives are at stake if we don’t act now.
“The Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care is our comprehensive plan to ensure more people can live their lives free from the fear of cancer. We urge all political leaders to unite behind this vital mission.”
Making cancer a top priority
The charity said that huge strides have been made in beating cancer – with survival in the UK doubling over the last 50 years.
But it warned that with NHS cancer services in crisis and around half a million new cancer cases each year expected by 2040 – this hard-won progress is at risk of stalling.
With the UK lagging behind comparable countries when it comes to cancer survival, the charity is calling on all political parties to make cancer a top priority in their party manifestos.
The manifesto asks whoever gains office to commit to developing a 10-year cancer plan, the charity said in their manifesto. Urgent action is also required to address the more than £1 billion funding gap for research into cancer over the next decade. If it’s not dealt with, this shortfall will put hard-won medical advances at risk.
To tackle these complex challenges head on, the charity recommends that a nationwide movement on cancer, spearheaded by a National Cancer Council, which brings government, the life sciences sector, charities and scientific experts together, is established.
The five missions
The Manifesto sets out the following five missions for the Government to follow to dramatically improve cancer outcomes. They are:
- Rebuild the UK’s global position in biomedical research.
The UK Government should set an ambition in its first 100 days to lead the G7 in research intensity, increase government investment and make the UK an attractive destination for scientists and clinicians worldwide.
- Prevent thousands more cancer cases.
The UK Government has a once in a generation opportunity to tackle one of the biggest health issues facing the country – smoking. Around 500,000 hospital admissions every year in England are attributable to smoking – equivalent to one person being admitted every minute.
The UK Government should urgently progress laws to increase the age of sale of tobacco products.
If these measures help achieve a Smokefree England by 2030, it could prevent around 18,200 cancer cases in the country by 2040.
- Diagnose cancers earlier and reduce inequalities.
Almost half of cancers in England are diagnosed at a late stage, and around 1 in 5 cancer patients are diagnosed via emergency routes. Earlier cancer diagnosis saves lives, and we are calling on the UK Government to implement measures to reduce late-stage diagnosis in England.
The UK Government should transform and optimise cancer screening programmes and accelerate the roll-out of the lung cancer screening programme in England.
Cancer Research UK is also calling on the UK Government to address variation in treatment across different geographical areas and reduce inequalities in early diagnosis in England through targeted action plans.
- Bring tests, treatments and innovations to patients more quickly.
Despite the tireless work of staff within the NHS, patients continue to wait far too long for vital tests and treatment.
While there is huge potential for innovation in the NHS, change must be backed by long-term funding for staff, essential kit and facilities.
The UK Government should set out a 10-year cancer-specific workforce plan to address the chronic staff shortages in cancer services. The UK Government should eliminate the £10.2 billion NHS maintenance deficit by 2030 and commit to rolling ringfenced capital investment for cancer.
- Build a national movement to beat cancer, together.
The current system is fragmented. In England, responsibility for cancer research and care is spread across NHS England, at least 5 government departments and multiple agencies.
At Cancer Research UK, we think that the best opportunities for improving cancer outcomes need those responsible for research, innovation, NHS services and public health from across government to coordinate their actions, ensuring we accelerate research, the adoption of innovation and reduce inequalities for everyone affected by cancer.
A new National Cancer Council for England, accountable to the Prime Minister, should be set up to drive cross-government action on cancer and deliver a 10-year cancer strategy for England.
The cancer care landscape
Research has made a substantial difference to cancer survival. According to Cancer Research UK, more than one million lives in the UK have been saved since the late 1980s thanks to advances in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
But far too many people face an anxious and worrying time waiting for diagnosis and treatment. The latest cancer waiting times paint a bleak picture. With the number of new cancer cases per year projected to rise by a fifth by 2040, expect to have more people waiting longer unless something changes.