It’s been a year of big announcements and surprises in the world of politics and policy. Here are just 7 of the key moments that have defined cancer policy this year.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 24, 2016
Since the EU referendum on 23rd June, we’ve been working to get the best deal for patients and researchers as the UK makes plans to leave the EU.
Following the referendum it’s been all change in Westminster too. David Cameron stood down as Prime Minister paving the way for Theresa May. Since then, we’ve been busy building relationships with May’s new government, the new shadow cabinet and other key MPs.
2. More money for Radiotherapy
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) October 25, 2016
We were delighted when NHS England announced £130 million investment into new radiotherapy machines over the next 2 years. We’ve been making the case for new radiotherapy machines for years, and it was key recommendation in the cancer strategy for England, so this really was great news for patients.
3. Cancer waiting times missed again
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) November 7, 2016
Back in October, the latest figures on how long patients are waiting for treatment in England were released. And, as with the previous two years, the results were worrying. Across all nations in the UK, cancer waiting times are consistently being missed.
One of the reasons for this is that the NHS services carrying out the scans, procedures, and lab tests involved in diagnosis are struggling to keep up with demand. Government needs to invest in the cancer workforce to ensure it’s fit for the future. And we’re waiting for Health Education England – which is responsible for training the healthcare workforce in England – to set out its plan for staffing cancer services.
4. Research funding
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) November 23, 2016
Last month the Government committed to spending an extra £2 billion per year by 2020 on research and development, which was great news. It’s a spending increase of around 20%. So we’ll be keeping an eye on how this extra funding to spent. But it’s encouraging to see that science is a priority for the Government.
5. Cancer strategies
— Heart Scotland News (@HeartScotNews) March 15, 2016
Cancer plans have been published in both Scotland and Wales this year. In Scotland, we provided expert input to the Government to develop the strategy, which has real potential to help patients. We blogged about our thoughts on this when it was published.
In Wales, although the strategy has some positives, it could have been much more ambitious. We’re working with the Welsh government to make sure the strategy is the best it can be for patients in Wales.
Northern Ireland is yet to develop a new cancer strategy, something that is desperately needed (it last published one in 2008). We’ll continue to call on the Northern Ireland Assembly to develop plans for cancer as soon as possible.
And in England, last year’s cancer strategy was followed by the publication of the Implementation Plan explaining how the strategy’s recommendations will be made a reality. This needs to happen quickly to help cancer services across the country. The £200m of funding from NHS England to help improve care and earlier diagnosis of cancer was a welcome start.
6. New screening tests for bowel and cervical screening
— PHE Screening (@PHE_Screening) July 25, 2016
The forthcoming introduction of these tests in England, Scotland and Wales will help save more lives from these cancers. We will be monitoring progress to make sure they are introduced quickly in each nation.
7. A childhood obesity plan
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) September 1, 2016
Over the summer, the Government finally published its childhood obesity strategy. It’s fair to say the plan wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped for, and we were disappointed that it had been watered down. But the plans for a sugary drinks tax slightly sweetened the deal, and we look forward to the tax being introduced as soon as possible.
But the tax isn’t enough on its own.
The nation’s children and their families need a comprehensive approach to tackle children’s obesity, especially to tackle junk food marketing. We launched our Junk Free TV campaign in July with the help of nearly 100 of our Cancer Campaign Ambassadors descending on Westminster to speak to their MP about the importance of tackling childhood obesity. We’ll be continuing to push government to extend junk food advertising restrictions in the New Year.
We were hopeful that a new tobacco control plan would make the list of key moments for 2016.
Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen this from government, despite it being promised last year (and the current one being out of date). The Department of Health has said the plan is on the way, but with vital NHS Stop Smoking Services under pressure, the new plan is urgently needed to continue the progress made in reducing tobacco use in the UK.
It’s thanks to each and every one of our supporters and volunteers that we’re able to keep the pressure on government and tackle these issues.
So as we look forward to a busy 2017 keeping cancer at the top of the political agenda, we’d like to thank you all.
Roxy Squire is a public affairs officer at Cancer Research UK