A week away from the general election, all the main political parties have now published their manifestos, which act as the blueprint for what they will do over the next parliament should they be elected on June 8th.
Unsurprisingly, we think cancer should be a key election topic. And voters agree with health named as the top concern in a recent poll.
And we’ve put some of the manifestos under the microscope to see what they mean for cancer, research and patients.
1. Preventing cancer
We know that 4 in 10 cancer cases in the UK can be prevented, mainly through making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and keeping to a healthy weight.
We’re pleased to see Labour and the Lib Dems pledge to extend restrictions on junk food marketing – a measure supported by the Scottish National Party (SNP). This would have a big impact on children’s eating habits and cancer risk. It’s also encouraging to see the Conservatives and SNP commit to provide clearer food labelling to help consumers make more informed choices.
As tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of cancer, we’ve been pushing to see a comprehensive tobacco control plan published. So it’s good to see commitments from Labour and the Lib Dems to produce a plan to build on the progress that’s been made in reducing smoking levels.
And in Wales, Plaid Cymru has set a target to save 10,000 lives over 10 years through public health and lifestyle changes.
2. Early and speedy diagnosis
The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be treated successfully. The 2015 Cancer Strategy for England estimates that 11,000 lives could be saved each year from early diagnosis.
Labour says it will continue to deliver the cancer strategy for England, and the Conservatives will bring in a new target to give cancer patients a definitive diagnosis within 28 days by 2020.
We know that the 62 day waiting time target for cancer patients in England to start their cancer treatment has not been met for the past three years. Whoever is elected must address this urgently to give patients the best chance of surviving.
One of the barriers to quick diagnosis is that we don’t have enough staff in diagnostic services like radiology and endoscopy. It’s vital that the next government does something about this – otherwise patients will lose out.
It’s encouraging that Labour and the Lib Dems have said they’ll produce plans to address these issues so that we don’t see shortages in the number of GPs, doctors, nurses and other professionals.
And the Conservatives have said they’ll increase the number of students in medical training to 1,500 a year, with Plaid Cymru aiming to train and recruit 1,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses for the Welsh NHS in the next 10 years.
Every patient should have access to the best, evidence-based treatment that is suitable for them. We’ve asked all parties to push ahead with the recommendations in the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), which would help new treatments get to patients sooner.
So it’s good to see that the Conservatives intend to go ahead with the recommendations in the AAR if they’re re-elected. And Labour has promised that all patients will get the most effective new drugs and treatments while insisting on value for money agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
Plaid Cymru wants to introduce a new Medicines and Treatment Fund to make sure everyone can get the medicines they need, no matter where they live in Wales. And the SNP is calling on the UK government to stay part of the European Medicines Agency after Brexit so that access to vital drugs is maintained.
Speaking of Brexit…
4. Brexit and the importance of science and research
Science is global and no single county or organisation is going to beat cancer on its own.
So we’re pleased to see commitments from the Conservatives to increase the number of scientists working in the UK, and an ambition to maintain the UK’s position as the European hub for life sciences. The SNP has also recognised how important it is to continue to take part in European clinical trials and data sharing.
Labour says it’ll meet the target of 3% of GDP to be spent on research and development by 2030. The Conservatives want to invest 2.4% of GDP in research and development, aiming for 3% as a future goal. And the Lib Dems have promised to protect the science budget aiming to double innovation and research spending in the long term.
Around half of Cancer Research UK-funded PhD students and researchers come from outside the UK, so the next government must develop an immigration system that lets us attract, recruit and keep scientific talent from across the globe.
The Lib Dems want to continue to allow high-skilled immigration to support key areas of the economy. They also want to reintroduce work visas for graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths who find suitable jobs within 6 months of graduating. The SNP also calls for the full reinstatement of the post-study visa scheme for international students.
Labour has said its system will be based on the economic needs of the country. The Conservatives have pledged to reduce net migration, at the same time as helping areas of the economy that have skills shortages (such as the NHS).
We’re pleased to see health and science high on the agenda for all parties in this general election.
It’s encouraging that all parties have laid out plans to prevent cancer, address workforce shortages to ensure earlier diagnosis and continue to invest in cancer treatments. It’s also great to see an emphasis on research and innovation, so that the UK can maintain its excellent science base.
Following the election, we’ll work with MPs to make sure cancer remains a high priority for them.
In the meantime, we’re asking all candidates to support our priorities for health and science and work with us to beat cancer sooner.
You can help us by emailing your election candidates, to make sure your voice is heard.