Headshot of Owen Jackson

We choose to act on cancer.

In the decade I spent working as a civil servant across half a dozen departments in Whitehall, one lesson stands out for me: governing means choosing.

Choosing which of the important, cost-effective, eye-catching policies to implement. Choosing whether to defend a number of small but highly impactful programmes, or to pursue a single, higher-profile option with greater chance of failure. Choosing which set of stakeholders would be happy, and which would be writing letters about you to the Editor of The Times.

Always knowing that there are more options to pursue, than there are resources to support.

When Ministers, advisers and civil servants are working to decide on political and departmental priorities, I learned that a few things can really make a difference. One which I saw time and again in government was the impact of a small number of good ideas, presented by an expert organisation, with thought having been given to how, and how much it would cost, to deliver them – ready and available at the right time.

It is for this reason that, over this year, Cancer Research UK’s policy department are developing a Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care – a transformational, long-term view of how to improve cancer research and care in the UK.

We won’t be doing this alone. Working with experts, clinicians, academics, policymakers, patient representatives and politicians, we will be presenting our best assessment of the specific, actionable and costed policies to take the UK from world-lagging to world-leading in outcomes for people with cancer, and which can help keep the UK’s life sciences sector at the cutting edge of global research and clinical trials.

As we approach a General Election, expected next year, UK political parties are turning their minds to longer-term policy, as they prepare to convince the electorate that they have the answers to the country’s biggest challenges.

Sadly, when politicians start knocking on doors and canvassing for votes they will meet many families that have been impacted by cancer. Cancer will affect around one out of every two people in the UK, and we may see more than half a million new cases each year by 2040.

Recent years have seen worsening cancer waits across all parts of the UK, with health services under intense pressure. These challenges, which have developed over years, require a similar “long view” to develop solutions which will firstly stabilise, then over time significantly improve cancer outcomes.

As the UK political parties prepare themselves for the forthcoming election, we want them to choose to make transforming cancer outcomes a priority – our Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care will provide a blue-print for them to do this.

Owen Jackson is the Director of Policy at Cancer Research UK

You can find out more about the Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care here.