Our work keeping cancer high on the political agenda stretches from local councils right up to the European stage. Here are our highlights from a busy 2017.
Greater Manchester: cutting smoking rates
Hard work from our team on the ground in Greater Manchester resulted in the publication of a Greater Manchester-wide Tobacco Control Plan. Approved in July, the report includes many of the things we’d campaigned on this year.
The plan will help cut smoking rates. And its publication came thanks to our team’s work securing signatures from over 750 councillors from all parties, and from across England, who supported our campaign asking Government to provide the much-needed funding to protect local Stop Smoking Services.
Scotland: tackling obesity
Our focus in Scotland this year has been obesity – the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.
We want the Scottish Government to restrict multi-buy offers on food and drink that is high in fat, sugar and salt. To help get the message across, we put a giant set of scales outside the Scottish Parliament.
Over a third of Scottish MPs attended the stunt, a great result. Early indications are that the Scottish Government is looking at our recommendations as part of its obesity strategy, which will be published in 2018.
England: tackling staff shortages in the NHS
In August we launched a campaign asking the Government to train and employ more NHS staff to diagnose cancer.
6,000 of you wrote to Jeremy Hunt directly or tweeted your MP, demanding the staff shortages be fixed. As a result, the first ever cancer workforce plan was published by Health Education England in December, making a commitment that 5,000 more staff will be working in NHS cancer services by 2021.
We’ll be working with local hospitals next year to make sure they can put this plan into action, as well as pushing for long-term plans beyond 2021.
England: Tobacco Control Plan
Following the General Election we wanted the Government to set out how it plans to reduce smoking rates across England. Volunteer campaigners worked to apply pressure and, in July, the Government responded by publishing a tobacco control plan.
The plan supported many of our recommendations. But there’s more to be done. Local Stop Smoking Services, which are the most effective way to help people quit, are still closing. And cuts to local budgets are the number one reason why.
In 2018 we’ll be working hard to make sure the Government introduces sustainable funding for Stop Smoking Services.
UK: General Election campaigning
We took Theresa May’s General Election as a chance to remind politicians that cancer must stay at the top of the political agenda.
Working tirelessly in the lead-up to polling day, our volunteer Campaigns Ambassadors made sure that almost 400 candidates pledged support to what we think will make the biggest difference for those affected by cancer.
Both Labour and Conservative committed to making England’s cancer strategy are reality, and all parties said they would work to help science and research.
UK: securing the sugar tax
We’ve been working hard throughout 2017 to secure a tax on sugary drinks. Kids across the UK drink a bathtub of fizzy drinks every year, getting more sugar from these than anything else.
The tax became law in April, which was great news. And companies have started scaling back the staggering amounts of sugar in their drinks – some of which rack up nine teaspoons per can.
The tax will play a big part in reducing hidden calories in children’s diets. But there’s still much more work to be done. We’ll be pushing for a ban on TV junk food ads shown on programmes that kids watch the most in 2018.
UK: plain packs for cigarettes
Plain packs for cigarettes became compulsory across the UK in May, following successful campaigning in previous years. Research shows the new design is the most effective in lowering cigarettes’ appeal. And we think the packs will make a massive difference in stopping young people from taking up smoking.
Europe: Brexit and the value of UK science
In May, we joined forces with seven other leading medical charities to publish a report highlighting how important UK medical research is to Europe. And how important it is to continue to work together once the UK leaves the EU.
The report opened doors to senior officials in the EU as well as the UK Government – even feeding into the Government’s recent position on science. Next year we will continue to push for cancer research to remain a priority in Brexit talks.
A great year
We wouldn’t be able to make our voice heard on these issues without the amazing support of our Campaigns Ambassadors.
Elizabeth is one of our longest serving Ambassadors, and here she reflects on her highlights from 2017:
“In October, I celebrated both seven years of being cancer-free and of being a Campaigns Ambassador for Cancer Research UK. During this time, I’ve been active in game-changing political campaigns such as ‘A Voice for Radiotherapy’ and plain packs for cigarettes.
“2017 has been a great year for Cancer Research UK achieving political change and over 400 Campaigns Ambassadors have worked together to pressure local and national politicians into acting on key issues.
“My personal highlight this year has been sharing my story to recruit a new generation of Ambassadors, as well as working together with other Ambassadors to create change. We’ve also supported each other in our wider efforts for Cancer Research UK, such as cheering on Sue Duncombe and Patrick McGuire on their epic fundraising cycle ride visiting Cancer Research UK shops.
“If you feel strongly about beating cancer, perhaps, like me, owing to a personal encounter, this is a great way to get involved: take a look at the Ambassador page on the Cancer Research UK website.
“We’re a great team, and we’d love some more recruits to help us achieve more change in 2018.”
Ben Moore is a campaigning officer at Cancer Research UK