Steve Brine MP
Steve Brine is a Conservative MP and the Minister for Public Health, which includes cancer care. This means he is responsible for the Government’s work to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Following World Cancer Day, we asked Steve about what he’s doing to help beat cancer sooner.
What are you doing to tackle cancer?
Our ambition is to have the best cancer outcomes in the world and over the past decade, cancer survival has increased year-on-year and more people survive cancer now than ever before. Great progress is being made, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that patients are diagnosed early, to tackle variations in access to care, and expand the cancer workforce.
How will you help more people survive cancer in the future, and with the best possible quality of life?
The Government has committed over £600m to implement the Cancer Strategy until 2020/21. We have also committed £130m to upgrade or replace NHS radiotherapy equipment to ensure that patients have access to the best and latest treatments wherever they live.
Patient experience and living with and beyond cancer are key aims of the strategy. As part of this, a world leading ‘quality of life’ measure is being tested in five sites across the country. The measure is the first of its kind and will let patients, the public, clinicians and health service providers see how well their local services are performing.
Tobacco and obesity are the biggest preventable risk factors for cancer. What are you doing to tackle these issues?
The UK is a world leader in tobacco control and the Government has a proven track record in reducing harm caused by tobacco. Last year we published a new Tobacco Control Plan to build on that success and support priority groups such as people with mental health conditions, pregnant women and young people.
Childhood obesity is one of the top public health challenges for this generation. Once weight is gained, it can be difficult to lose and obese children are much more likely to become obese adults. Our Childhood Obesity Plan represents the start of a long journey and focuses on the actions that are likely to have the biggest impact. Many of the key commitments in our plan will have an impact on tackling obesity across all age groups.
Early diagnosis saves lives – what are you doing to help diagnose cancers earlier?
As part of our investment to implement the Cancer Strategy, we have set up a £200m transformation fund to find innovative ways to drive earlier diagnosis and support people living with and beyond cancer.
Public Health England has led the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns to raise public awareness of possible early symptoms of cancer and encourage people with those symptoms to go and see their doctor. We are also introducing a new 28-day faster diagnosis standard, which I obsess about – this is where patients will receive a diagnosis of cancer or the all-clear in up to 28 days of being referred by their GP.
What area of cancer research or medical technology are you most excited by?
I’ve been really impressed by proton beam therapy, which is a specialised type of radiotherapy used to treat certain types of cancer in sensitive parts of the body because it can limit damage to tissues around the tumour. This is particularly useful for specific types of children’s cancer. And at the moment, where proton beam therapy offers a clear advantage over conventional radiotherapy, we send some children with certain types of cancer to centres in the US and Switzerland to receive this type of treatment. But from this year, those patients will be able to receive treatment at the Christie Centre in Manchester, which I visited last autumn, and next year a centre will open in London.
I’m also excited about the work Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support are doing as wave two of the Accelerate, Coordinate, Evaluate (ACE) Programme to pilot ten multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres (MDCs) across England. These fantastic one-stop shops are being tested as a possible way for people to rapidly receive a suite of tests, potentially reducing the risk that patients bounce around services receiving multiple different referrals for the same problem. This helps streamline the process, saving resources and helping people get their diagnosis more quickly.
How do you think Cancer Research UK can help improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer? And where do you think Cancer Research UK has had the most impact in the past?
Colleagues at Cancer Research UK have been great partners for many years in trying to drive improvements in cancer care in our country, whether through your vital contribution to the Be Clear on Cancer Campaigns, especially funding the bowel screening campaign in the North West, or through maintaining the pressure on tobacco control, or of course your enormous investment in cancer research.
I would also urge you to keep holding us to account on issues where you think we could do better. I would like to end by expressing particular thanks to your Chief Executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, for his great support over the years, particularly in chairing the independent Cancer Taskforce to produce a fantastic strategy that will save many thousands of lives.
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Read our interview with Sharon Hodgson, Shadow Public Health Minister and Steve’s counterpart in the Labour Party, about her priorities for tackling cancer.