Below is the text of a letter that we’ve sent to Andrew Lansley – secretary of state for health – about the Government’s new Responsibility Deal.

It outlines our support for ways to improve public understanding of how lifestyles help to reduce the risk of cancer, as well as our concerns that the alcohol pledges do not go far enough to promoting health behaviour.


Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE
Secretary of State for Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall

11th March

Dear Andrew

Public Health Responsibility Deal

Thank you for your letter of 18th February 2011 inviting Cancer Research UK to sign up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal.

Up to half of all cancers are potentially preventable, so Cancer Research UK strongly supports efforts to improve public health. After tobacco, obesity, alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity (alongside exposure to Ultra Violet radiation) are the main lifestyle risk factors for cancer. We are committed to informing the UK public of the evidence in this area and to supporting the development and implementation of evidence-based policies to aid cancer prevention.

We welcome the opportunity to engage with the Government in relevant discussions and have been involved in the developmental work of the Food, Physical Activity, Alcohol and Health at Work networks.

Through involvement in the Responsibility Deal, we are pleased that the alcohol and food industries have recognised the role they have to play in tackling the harms to health caused by alcohol and poor diet. The process represents a step forward, and it is pleasing that a number of organisations across different sectors are involved in pledge development. To this end, we will remain engaged in the Responsibility Deal process and sign up to the core commitments and supporting pledges.

In signing up, I would like to make clear that we are very disappointed with the alcohol pledges to date. We are concerned that the current pledges are not evidence-based, are not broad enough in scope and will not have any impact on health outcomes. We believe our role is to be a critical friend of the Government and to push the alcohol industry to be far more ambitious. These commitments must be strengthened and built upon as a matter of urgency if the alcohol network is to deliver any positive change.

Independent monitoring and evaluation of the Responsibility Deal is critical to assess whether it is positively impacting on health outcomes. We welcome the Government’s commitment to fund a programme of evaluation. We look forward to hearing more detail about this. Cancer Research UK is an evidence-based organisation and if independent monitoring shows that health outcomes have not been positively influenced as a result of the Deal, we will review our position.

The Government has stated that the voluntary commitments set out in the Responsibility Deal will form only one strand of its approach to public health. This is welcome as the evidence clearly shows that comprehensive approaches, including appropriate legislation, are needed to improve public health. We look forward to working with the Government to develop evidence-based strategies on alcohol, obesity and physical activity, with rigorous evaluation metrics. These are the policy interventions that we believe will bring real change.

Core Commitment, Supporting Pledges and Collective Pledges

We are signing the core commitments and supporting pledges.

In terms of Cancer Research UK’s contribution to delivering collective pledges, we will sign up to the following:

  • We will contribute to the communication and promotion of the Chief Medical Officers’ revised physical activity guidelines.
  • To embed the principles of the chronic conditions guides (developed through the Responsibility Deal’s health at work network) within HR procedures to ensure that those with chronic conditions at work are managed in the best possible way with reasonable flexibilities and workplace adjustments.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with you and others to improve public health.

With kind regards

Harpal S. Kumar
Chief Executive
Cancer Research UK