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The ten defining moments in health and cancer policy from 2015

by Lucy Absolom | Analysis

21 December 2015

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Here are our policy highlights from 2015.

Over the past 12 months we’ve kept cancer high on the political agenda at an international, national, devolved and local level. From MPs voting to bring in standardised tobacco packaging, to Government investment in early diagnosis and the publication of a new Cancer Strategy, it’s been an action-packed year.

And we wanted to say a massive thank you to the tens of thousands of campaigners who’ve helped make this possible. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Here’s our pick of the ten defining moments from this year.

1. Standard packs campaign


In the final week of a three-year long campaign, 2,300 campaigners emailed their MPs asking them to turn out and vote in Parliament for standardised packaging of cigarettes. 367 MPs listened, voting ‘yes’ to see standard packs introduced across the UK.

2. Cross Cancer Out

We engaged with 1,100 election candidates from all political parties in the lead up to the General Election as part of our Cross Cancer Out campaign. And with the help of around 16,500 campaign supporters, and the 5,500 people who took part in our events in London, Birmingham and Manchester, we shared our key campaign messages with over a third of the MPs elected in May.

3. The General Election

Since the election we’ve been working hard building relationships with those new to Westminster, while also maintaining and developing our relationships with existing MPs. Here’s what we said at the time on what the election result meant for cancer and the work we do.

4. A new Cancer Strategy for England

Our CEO, Harpal Kumar, chaired an independent Taskforce that produced a new cancer strategy for England. This was the first time a strategy had been led independently outside the NHS, and we played an important role in driving the agenda. And with an estimated 30,000 extra lives that could be saved every year by 2020 if its recommendations are met, we’ll be pushing for the Government to meet these targets. We are now calling for cancer plans for the devolved nations to help patients across the UK.

5. Test Cancer Sooner

george osborne3

The Chancellor listened as thousands of you signed up to our campaign. Credit: Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Our amazing supporters helped us collect 24,600 signatures in just six weeks for our campaign, smashing our initial target of 11,000. This support, combined with our evidence showing that patients were missing out on tests, meant the Government listened. In his Spending Review in November, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the NHS would have up to £300m a year, each year up to 2020, to speed up cancer diagnosis.

6. Molecular diagnostics

In 2014,16,000 patients with lung and bowel cancer missed out on genetic tests that that could have helped decide if they should receive a targeted cancer drug, according to our report. So it’s great news that NHS England has now committed to around 25,000 additional people a year having their cancers genetically tested to identify the most effective treatments. We’re now using similar evidence from Wales to show the Welsh Government the importance of a national testing service there.

7. Data Saves Lives

An important European data law – that has been batted back and forth between different parts of the EU policy process for the last four years – was finally agreed. EU policymakers heard our concerns about the law, which we now believe strikes a crucial balance between protecting people’s privacy, and ensuring research can continue.

8. CLeaR

In partnership with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Public Health England (PHE), we presented four local authorities with awards to recognise their efforts in protecting the health of their communities. The Challenge, Leadership and Results (CLeaR) partnership supports local tobacco control advocates by allowing local authorities to scrutinise and report on each other’s tobacco control policies and activities.

9. Making the NHS a research powerhouse

We published nine key recommendations for making sure the NHS can do the best research possible. We believe that research must be a part of routine care for cancer patients, and our report explored how this might be achieved. We also recently called on the Government to protect science funding at the Spending Review, funding which is important to maintain the supportive environment for our research. So it was great news that the Chancellor announced the Government would be protecting the science budget following the Spending Review.

10. Party Conferences

2052 of our supporters emailed their MPs, 1952 emailed their MEPs and 143 emailed their devolved nation representatives asking them to visit our stand at 10 political party conferences across the UK. With a new Parliament in Westminster, and devolved nation elections in 2016, this played a vital part in making sure we can speak to those in power and tell them what’s important for patients, research and cancer.


We attended 10 political party conferences across the UK this year.

Once again, we want to thank each and every one of you who has supported our policy and campaigning work this year. It’s thanks to you that we are able to hold the Government to account on the issues that we know will make a huge different in beating cancer.

Lucy Absolom and Harriet Adams, public affairs officers at Cancer Research UK