Our policy on national cancer plans

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Cancer strategies are crucial for driving improvement in cancer care and improving outcomes for patients. Effective strategies help set direction and make sure that resources are allocated for maximum impact.

The World Health Organisation thinks every country can benefit from having a cancer plan. We agree and believe that each country in the UK should have its own tailored, comprehensive strategy, with dedicated resource. 

Currently, each of the four nations in the UK has a cancer plan. But they are at different stages of implementation.

The latest cancer strategy for England, ‘Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: A strategy for England 2015-2020’, was published in July 2015, setting out clear and bold ambitions for improving outcomes for patients. Our chief executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, chaired the independent taskforce that developed the strategy. He wrote about the strategy's six strategic priorities on our blog. 

Two years on from the publication of the cancer strategy in England, some progress has been made. We welcomed the announcement of £130m of investment to upgrade radiotherapy machines, and a national cancer team has been established to provide leadership and take responsibility for making the plan a reality.

However, we have significant concerns about two big challenges we feel put the implementation of the plan at risk. Firstly – workforce shortages. For example, the NHS staff who diagnose cancer are working hard to deliver an excellent service, but there need to be more staff trained and employed to keep pace with growing demand. 

And while the NHS has promised a “radical upgrade in prevention”, local public health budgets have received substantial cuts. These cuts have been especially damaging to local Stop Smoking Services which are essential to preventing cancer. 

The Welsh Government published its latest plan, Cancer Delivery Plan 2016-2020, in November 2016. It includes some positive actions and reflects some areas we had identified as priorities. However, there are some parts of the plan where greater ambition would be beneficial. Cancer Research UK will be working to support implementation and maximise opportunities associated with the new plan.

Northern Ireland's most recent plan for cancer services is the Cancer Control Programme which was published in 2008. Given how quickly technology and medicine change, and subsequent reforms to the health service in Northern Ireland, this is now long out of date. We are calling on the next Northern Ireland Executive to develop a new strategy - and have made a number of recommendations for what they should focus on.

The Scottish Government published its latest cancer plan, Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action, in March 2016. We welcome its ambitions and the decision to commit £100 million over five years to support prevention, early detection and diagnosis and improve treatments. We will be monitoring implementation closely.

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