Longer, better lives: A manifesto for cancer research and care

The five missions

Are you a politician, political adviser, researcher or health leader?

Are you a civil servant, policymaker or health expert?

Our manifesto sets out the measures and commitments the next government can make to help prevent 20,000 cancer deaths every year by 2040.

Rebuild the UK’s global position in biomedical research

Mission 1

We want to make cancer research the beating heart of the UK as a leading science and research power – one which transforms outcomes for people affected by cancer.  

But right now, the UK life sciences sector is falling compared to its peers. With a sustainable approach to biomedical research funding, the UK could become a top tier destination for clinical trials and attract industry and investment.  

This would boost our economy: if we maintain historic trends in cancer research investment, funding would top £3bn in 2040, supporting over 80,000 jobs and generating more than £13bn in economic benefits. And the public agree – in our recent polling, 74% of people either strongly or somewhat agreed that the UK Government should increase its investment into cancer research and development.

That’s why we want:

  • The UK Government to set an ambition, in its first 100 days, to lead the G7 in research intensity and set out a plan to get there through increased investment and making the UK an attractive research destination. 
  • Within a year of a general election, the UK Government to work with industry, research funders and research charities to set out a plan to, at least, close the more than £1bn funding gap for cancer research over the next decade. 

Prevent more cancers than ever before

Mission 2

We want to act against known cancer risks to save lives, reduce pressure on our NHS and prevent 40,000 cancers by 2040. 

Preventing cancer saves lives, saves money and reduces pressure on the NHS. 4 in 10 cancers are preventable. Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of cancer – around 64,000 people are killed each year by smoking. 

As our population grows and ages, it’s essential to reduce the number of preventable cancers to avoid the need for ever-growing health budgets. To improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities, the UK Government needs to drive forward a world-leading public health programme, with a reduction in smoking at its heart. In total, smoking cost the NHS about £2.2bn in 2022, with a further £1.3bn for the social care system.  
A smokefree UK will prevent 23,900 cancer cases and produce £1.4bn of economic benefits in the UK between now and 2040. 2/3 people support increasing the age of sale for tobacco. And almost 70% of UK adults support investing more money in public health campaigns and stop smoking services.

That’s why we want: 

  • Within a year of the general election, the UK Government to have raised the age of sale of tobacco products and started to implement a sufficiently funded programme of measures to help people who smoke quit, with the aim of making England smokefree and preventing around 18,200 cancer cases in England by 2040. 
  • Within a year of the general election, the UK Government to implement the 2022 legislation on TV and online advertising restrictions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). 

Diagnose more cancers earlier

Mission 3

We want to improve survival by diagnosing cancers earlier, making the UK’s cancer outcomes among the best in the world. 

Right now, the NHS is not on track to meet its existing target of diagnosing 75% of cancer patients early (at stage 1 or 2) by 2028. The disappointing progress on early diagnosis is a key reason for poorer outcomes in the UK, particularly amongst deprived communities. 

The UK Government needs to bring together researchers, industry, policy makers and health leaders to put in place what we already know works, and target research and innovation to where we still have questions to answer, including into how to reduce cancer inequalities. 

Diagnosing cancer earlier means being able to treat it earlier. And this generally means less expensive, less extensive and less invasive treatments which result in better outcomes for patients. For example, the average cost of treatment of breast cancer at stage 1 is a third of the cost of treatment of breast cancer at stage 4, and more than triples survival from around 30% to nearly 100%. 

That’s why we want:

Within 12 months of a general election, the UK Government as part of a long-term strategy for England to:

  • Implement measures that reduce late-stage diagnosis of cancer. 
  • Transform and optimise cancer screening programmes through:  

Full roll-out of the lung cancer screening programme in England by 2028. 

Creation of a roadmap for the reduction of FIT threshold in the bowel cancer screening programme. 

Accelerating the implementation of modern IT infrastructure in all cancer screening programmes. 

  • Direct Integrated Care Boards to accelerate locally tailored approaches to reducing inequalities in earlier diagnosis. 
  • Set out plans to improve our understanding of treatment variation with better data, including investment in audits, and address unwarranted variation in access to cancer treatment across England through targeted action plans. 

Bring innovation to patients more quickly and reduce inequalities

Mission 4

We want the NHS to be adequately resourced so that by 2035, we rank amongst the best in the world for cancer survival and everyone has access to cutting-edge care when they need it. 

England hasn’t met key cancer wait time targets since 2015 – that’s 130,000 people waiting longer than they should. The biggest single barrier is NHS capacity. 

The UK Government needs to invest in equipment and workforce to meet the demands of an ageing population and to enable the transformation of cancer care. 

The UK’s capital spending on health has long lagged our near neighbours. Budgets aren’t sufficient so we have a ‘maintenance backlog’ deficit of £10.2bn, so funds are being diverted from efforts to expand or improve services to fix buildings and equipment, affecting patients across all aspects of NHS cancer care. 

Long waiting times are a worry for the public, with public polling showing that 95% of people are concerned about the time it takes for patients to be diagnosed with and start their cancer treatment.

That’s why we want:

  • The UK Government and NHS England to direct Integrated Care Boards and Health Innovation Networks to accelerate the translation of innovation to better detect, diagnose and treat cancer. 
  • As part of a long-term cancer strategy for England published within 12 months of a general election, the UK Government to set out plans for addressing NHS resource gaps by developing a 10-year cancer-specific workforce plan, eliminating the wider NHS maintenance backlog by 2030 and committing to rolling ringfenced capital investment for cancer. 
  • The UK Government to commit to consistently meeting all Cancer Waiting Times targets for England by the end of the next Parliament, including a higher Faster Diagnosis Standard target of 85%. 

Build a national movement to beat cancer, sooner

Mission 5