Politics & Campaigns

CRUK: The Government Is Failing on Cancer

Cancer Research UK has accused the Government of failing on cancer and demanded that MPs reinstate funding for the annual No Smoking Day

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Cancer Research UK has accused the Government of failing on cancer and demanded that MPs reinstate funding for the annual No Smoking Day. The charities call was echoed by some MPs, and other charities and health organisations. Cancer Research UK has also issued a warning to smokers that their chances of developing dementia are greater because they smoke.

In March, MPs debated the importance of campaigns such as national No Smoking Day and called on the government to explain why it has cut funding for tobacco control, with the worst cuts hitting public health campaigns.

Government funding for No Smoking Day has been cut completely, and total funding for anti-smoking campaigns has been cut by over 95% in real terms in the past 12 years, from £23.3 million in 2008/9 to around £1.32 million in 2020/21. This is despite a commitment from the government in 2019 to make England smokefree by 2030, the charity says.

ASH’s Hazel Cheeseman said: “[No Smoking Day] is an important day for smokers to make the first step on their journey to being an ex-smokes, but a one-off awareness day run by charities is not going to make this country smokefree by 2030. There are still six million smokers in this country. These are people at risk of premature death and disease if the government does not act. It is past time that the government publish a properly funded Tobacco Control Plan.”

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research said that World Cancer Day had a theme of ‘closing the gap in cancer care’. She believes this is “a topic that is sadly, only too relevant to the UK. The 2022 parliamentary inquiry into cancer care has shown that England (and the UK as whole) continues to lag behind comparable nations in terms of cancer outcomes.

Government targets on cancer have been missed for years – well before the Covid pandemic. As of November 2022 – only 61% of patients in England started treatment within 62 days of an urgent suspected cancer referral. The government target of 85% has not been met since 2015.

“And around 12.4% of cancer patients in England (about 2000 people) waited more than 104 days after an urgent referral to begin treatment. This of course has a negative impact on rates of survival. It has a human impact too – with more people suffering from stress and anxiety about when they’ll be treated.

“Until recently, the government was committed to publishing a 10-year cancer plan in response to this crisis and had consulted with a wide range of stakeholder groups including expert oncologists and charities like Cancer Research UK. We were hopeful that the problem might be gripped once and for all.

“This plan, however, has been quietly dropped by the new administration, in favour of a 5-year ‘major conditions strategy’ which will combine their intended approach to cancer, alongside other issues such as stroke, diabetes, mental health and dementia.

“Getting this strategy right will be critical to ensure cancer isn’t ignored at the expense of other problems facing the NHS, such as the huge pressures on A&E and the significant backlog for elective surgery.

“The strategy will need to address the persistent failure to hit cancer targets – with clear metrics for progress and success, with clarity on who is accountable for delivery and performance, and ideally independent oversight of that performance.

“It will need to ensure the NHS rolls out better ways of diagnosing more cancers early and increases its capacity to get patients diagnosed and treated more quickly. It will need to drive action on preventing cancer in the first place – ensuring government reaches its targets on problems such as smoking and obesity.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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