THE BLOG

The Cancer Strategy Is A Visionary Plan To Beat Cancer - We Cannot Allow It To Be Undermined

01/02/2017 13:13 GMT | Updated 02/02/2017 11:38 GMT
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This weekend is World Cancer Day; a day which is based around the theme of unity.

Cancer affects us all at some point in our lives, may it be ourselves, a family member of a friend. That is why we must remain united in our determination to beat this disease for good.

In the UK we have a comprehensive Cancer Strategy which, if implemented fully, has promised to save 30,000 more lives per year by 2020. The Strategy is being implemented, but there still remain concerns that its vision of improving survival rates could be undermined.

Firstly, the Government's failure to address the NHS winter crisis has left cancer patients with cancelled operations due to a lack of inpatient beds, which has delayed life-saving treatment.

Secondly, the 62-day wait target from GP referral to beginning of treatment has been routinely missed over the last three years with little, or no, improvement. The issues we have seen around workforce capacity has only exacerbated this situation.

Thirdly, we still are not seeing the promised "radical upgrade in prevention and public health' promised in NHS England's Five Year Forward View from two years ago.

Instead, the Government have cut public health budgets, with an in-year cut of £200 million in 2015, followed by a 3.9% real terms cut each year of this Parliament.

This is worrying when two of the biggest preventable causes of cancer - smoking and obesity - are being affected by these cuts.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) uncovered that 6 in 10 local authorities have reduced their stop smoking services, making it harder for people to kick the habit, and Cancer Research UK has warned that if we continue failing to address the burgeoning obesity crisis in the UK, we could see an estimated 670,000 new cases of cancer by 2035.

There is no doubt that we all want to fight cancer and beat it for good - the Cancer Strategy is going a long way in doing that. But Ministers cannot allow the opportunity to make serious inroads into survival outcomes be undermined by a disjointed approach to cancer policy and public health.

We must all be united in our common goal of fighting cancer, and holding ministers to account for their actions when it comes to these issues.

Beating cancer is something we cannot afford to get wrong.

Sharon Hodgson is the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for public health

Correction: This blog previously claimed one in four local authorities have reduced their stop smoking services. The correct number in six in ten.