Together we will beat cancer


Alongside my role as Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, I am honoured to have been invited to be the independent chair of a Task Force to plot how the country can best tackle the challenges that cancer will bring over the next five years.

Although announced by NHS England, it is important to recognise that the strategy covers the entire health system and will involve, and be owned by, all of its key players.

We will work together to find new ways of improving cancer services, identifying what needs to be done better in future by studying the kind of care patients get today.

And this summer we will publish a five-year plan that aims to deliver:

  • Better prevention
  • Swifter diagnosis
  • Better treatment, care and aftercare for all cancer patients

This is a tremendously exciting project, and the Task Force will include, among others, cancer clinicians, members of the Royal Colleges of GPs and Surgeons, charity leaders – including Cancer 52 and Macmillan Cancer Support – Public Health England and the NHS.

More than one in three people in the UK develop cancer and half will now live for at least 10 years – 40 years ago median survival was just one year.

But survival for most types of cancer remains below the European average and well below the best in Europe and other countries of comparable income.

Too many people are diagnosed at a late stage – one in four as a result of an emergency presentation – so there is a huge opportunity to do better. The NHS is aiming to increase early stage diagnosis by just 10 per cent over the next five years – equivalent to about 8,000 more patients living longer than five years after diagnosis.

We need to chart a path to achieving this.

But we are not waiting on publishing the strategy to get on with our work. Also announced at the same time as the Task Force, is the “ACE Programme”, which Cancer Research UK is leading jointly with NHS England and Macmillan. This programme has identified more than 60 potential projects to address late diagnosis. The projects will be led locally by NHS teams and include:

  • Giving GPs direct access to diagnostic tests
  • Working with people at high risk of cancer to help spot the disease early
  • Creating bespoke clinics where unexplained symptoms can get a quick diagnosis
  • Improving multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres
  • Boosting the role of pharmacists who keep track of regular prescriptions and may be able to refer patients for tests
  • Allowing GPs to overrule NICE criteria at their discretion
  • Enabling patients to book their own appointments for a diagnostic test.

Cancer Research UK operates across the UK, so although this is a plan being developed for England, many of the principles should apply across all four nations and we hope it will support similar work throughout the country.

Chiefly because of the UK’s ageing population, we know that many more people will be diagnosed with cancer in the years ahead. Cancer Research UK is projecting an increase of a third in the number of cases over the next 15 years. So the time is right to set new ambitions and to take a fresh look at how we will meet this need.

I believe this is the first time that something like this has been led from outside the NHS or Department of Health. It is a huge responsibility, but one that is central to our priorities as an organisation, as well as the many other organisations involved.

I am in the process of pulling together an excellent group of people to drive this work and provide the expertise necessary.

My aim is to publish a strategy that is both exciting and ambitious, but equally is deliverable and is owned by the people and organisations who will be charged with implementing it. I am honoured to have been asked to lead this work.



Henry Scowcroft July 10, 2015

Ann – first of all, thank you for your comments, and for your dedication and time supporting Cancer Research UK. We’re sorry to hear you’re concerned about the recent coverage of the issues around charity executive pay. As a leading medical research organisation, it is essential that we attract and retain the highest quality people, to help us to achieve our mission of beating cancer. Some of our highest-paid people are world-leading scientists who have helped make huge advances in cancer research. We benchmark salaries against market rates in the charitable and academic sectors, to arrive at appropriate salary ranges which attract and retain the best people, whilst ensuring appropriate levels of expenditure.

You may find that this article, published in the Scotsman, interesting:

Specifically regarding our shops – having listened to feedback from our staff, we have already started to address concerns with staffing levels in our shops by ensuring every shop has a minimum of one day paid support per week. We know how fortunate we are to have such a loyal volunteer base in our shops, and always strive to ensure a safe, supportive and stimulating volunteering environment. Through the introduction of more paid support, and looking to significantly further increase our volunteer base, we hope to ensure a more even and consistent level of support in all of our shops.

Cancer Research UK

Ann wood June 28, 2015

As a vo!ounteer with cancer research UK I am very concerned to hear of the high upper echelon salaries in particular the ceo when I know for a fact that at grass roots staffing levels are severely low and the running of the shops which depends largely on free labour like me is stretched almost to its limits and would be very interested to hear if there is an intention to remedy this or if you will continue to abuse the good nature of people such as I am or if you will use some of that money to really help

Patricia Johnson February 26, 2015

Why are there no cancer nurses or AHPs on the cancer taskforce group? They are the largest part of the cancer workforce and the national cancer patient experience surveys show that they make the greatest impact on patient exerience and outcomes. Clearly they therefore will be able to make a significant contribution to future cancer care provision.

Camilo Colaco January 27, 2015

Will cell-based immunotherapy and how to deliver it be considered for the Strategy?

Alison Stone January 13, 2015

Amazing! This is what has been needed for a long time.
I was smiling while I was reading this!