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Keeping cancer on the political agenda – this year’s Party Conferences

by Grace Gottlieb | Analysis

20 October 2014

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Our wall of support from this year's Party Conferences

With the General Election less than a year away we’ve been travelling the length and breadth of the country attending Party Conferences.

Keeping cancer on the political agenda is a big priority. Research has led to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and now two in four people survive cancer for at least 10 years. But it’s through political action that achievements in research can be translated into benefits for today’s patients, or for people who may be affected by cancer in the future.

Party Conferences provide a great opportunity for us to speak with MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs), keeping them informed about our work. We went to the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat conferences to talk to them about the key areas we think the future Government should be prioritising.

Our exhibition stand made an appearance at both Labour and Conservative conferences where we invited MPs and PPCs to support our vision to beat cancer sooner.

With local cancer statistics for each constituency at the ready, and our Discussion Paper to hand, parliamentarians and PPCs were given the information we think they need to keep improving the outlook for people with cancer on a local and national level.

What did the politicians think?

It was great to see how engaged MPs and PPCs were with our work and the need to keep cancer on the political agenda. Here’s a selection of photos from our stand and tweets from MPs and PPCs, including key ministers and shadow ministers:

What do we need political action on?

We know that political action is needed in four key policy areas – and we were talking closely with MPs and PPCs about how they can take action:

  • Spotting cancer early: The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it will be treated successfully.
  • Access to treatments: We’d like to see all patients accessing the innovative, evidence-based treatments they need.
  • Getting tough on tobacco: Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease, yet one in five people in the UK still smoke.
  • Ensuring the UK remains a competitive hub for research: We’d like to see scientific advancements brought to patients quickly.

For more information on what we think politicians should do, read this blog post.

What do the Party Conferences mean for cancer?

There was a great response about our work at this year’s conferences, and all three Parties made some big commitments that could lead to real improvements for people with cancer, including pledges for the future of the NHS and its funding.

The Conservatives committed to further investment for the NHS, delivering a strong NHS through a strong economy. They spoke of their pride in the Cancer Drugs Fund and early diagnosis work.

Labour promised a ‘Time to Care’ Fund to support more doctors, nurses and midwives. They also announced plans to place charges on tobacco companies that will be channelled towards tobacco-related NHS costs. We recently outlined the need for greater support for early diagnosis in this blog post. And since the conference doors closed, Labour has also said that early diagnosis of cancer is critical, and no one in England will have to wait more than a week for cancer tests and results under a future Labour government. They have said the £750m cost of implementing this pledge by 2020 would be covered by a levy on tobacco firms.

Liberal Democrats pledged to increase NHS funding by £1 billion each year until 2017/18, followed by further increases once the economy improves.

We welcome further investment into the NHS, especially given that our recent report has shown cancer services to be at breaking point. Having raised the profile of cancer at this year’s Party Conferences we’re continuing our work to ensure cancer is prioritised by the next Government.

By keeping the pressure on, we will ensure that our ambitious target of three in four people surviving cancer in the next 20 years stays on track.

Grace Gottlieb is a public affairs and campaigns intern at Cancer Research UK