Leading on Cancer: Why the next UK Government must set out a new strategy for cancer – Cancer Research UK

A comprehensive strategy provides an opportunity to identify and focus on the areas most pertinent to improving cancer outcomes across the UK, guided by the latest evidence from patients, clinicians, academics, and public health experts.  

A new strategy for cancer must be long-term. This enables the Government to set out measures that can increase productivity and improve efficiency, to deliver sustained reform to cancer research and care. This could include preparing health systems for upcoming innovations by providing sufficient staff training and the required IT infrastructure and equipment to deliver new, potentially time-saving technologies. A long-term strategy can further help prepare services for a growing and ageing population, and initiate a shift from treating ill health to preventing more cancer cases in the first place.  

Long-term planning ensures that funding for cancer transformation is consistently delivered across multiple years. For example, the rollout of Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs) has the potential to boost cancer diagnosis and get England on track to meet targets for increasing physical capacity for testing. However, the full potential of this ambitious programme risks being held back by an outdated digital infrastructure and a lack of staff to operate new CDCsvi. Greater long-term planning for cancer can help support the delivery of such interventions over multiple years, cognisant of revenue resources needed within the existing health system to support implementation.  

Bringing together actors from across Government to deliver for cancer 

Clarity of purpose from the very top of governments can build momentum behind a cancer strategy, including by making cancer a political priority for several government departments.  Progress in improving cancer outcomes is dependent on governance structures, policy change and investment from across Government. Including departments responsible for accelerating cancer research efforts through to departments working to improve population health and preventing more cancers.  

An effective strategy for cancer should consider how it can be delivered across multiple departments and delivery partners and determine how the plan can work in conjunction with the wider activities of these bodies. Meanwhile, evidence shows that cross-government working is most successful when it is supported by national organisational structures that work to maintain collaboration between departments over timevii. 

That is why we are calling for a new National Cancer Council, which would be chaired by the Prime Minister and would join up multiple departments in Government along with representatives of NHS England, public research funders and expert advisors, including those across the third sector. The National Cancer Council could build momentum behind the plan, holding delivery partners accountable for actions across its lifespan and ensuring that the necessary investment is delivered. This can also support robust and independent evaluation measures, to facilitate ongoing learning and build transparency on progress against the strategy’s commitments.  

All political parties must commit to lead on cancer  

With an election weeks away, political parties have the opportunity to show bold leadership on cancer. In England, the next UK Government should commit to setting out a 10-year strategy for cancer and creating a dedicated leadership structure, a National Cancer Council. 

The time to act is now. Our manifesto Longer, Better, Lives details the policies that, if enacted by the UK Government, could help prevent 20,000 cancer deaths every year by 2040. We are calling on all political parties to back this ambition and make this election a turning point for cancer.  

With political will and the right strategy of reform and investment, we can deliver the solutions for the long-term problems facing cancer patients today. With that, we can elevate UK cancer survival to amongst the best in the world and help everyone lead longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer. 

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