There was a certain hush over the Macmillan Public Affairs team last Thursday as everyone plugged in their headphones to listen to MPs debate the crucially important topic of improving cancer outcomes. The debate was led by Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, John Baron MP, and supported by a number of other cancer specific All Party Groups. Significantly, it was most likely the last opportunity before the General Election for MPs to speak with one voice on floor of the House about the importance of cancer outcomes.
We were delighted to hear a number of MPs reiterate our General Election calls during the debate – on delivering the best outcomes in Europe, ensuring that all cancer patients are treated with dignity and respect, and providing free social care at the end of life.
In his opening speech, John Baron (Conservative) set out the scale of the challenge as he highlighted the wide gap between cancer survival rates in the UK, and the best in Europe. Speaking on recent changes which will see CCGs held to account on improvements in one year survival rates, he called on the Minister “to ensure that NHS England uses those tools to full effect to deliver the best outcomes in Europe and, quite literally, to save tens of thousands of lives”. This was later echoed by former Care Minister, Paul Burstow (Lib Dem), who set out “why we need this ambition of going beyond just achieving the average survival rates in Europe to strive to become the best in Europe” and pointed to “better prevention, swifter diagnosis, better treatment and aftercare” as crucial components in achieving this.
Burstow also touched on another point Macmillan have been campaigning on for a number of years – free social care at the end of life. In response to comments from Grahame Morris (Labour), who highlighted that Government have previously said they saw much merit in the policy, Burstow confirmed that his position had not changed since he left Government – and that if anything, further evidence now made the case even stronger. On the subject of end of life care, we were also delighted to hear Morris call for 24/7 community care, and better information sharing – both of which are also essential to delivering the best end of life care.
But whilst the debate covered many of these important issues, it was Jack Lopresti’s (Conservative) moving account of his own cancer experience which brought the importance of improving cancer outcomes home. During his account he praised the “great medical support and care” he received from nurses and organisations like Macmillan, but highlighted the importance of good communication, as he described receiving a letter detailing a conversation with a consultant which had never taken place. Other members commended Lopresti for his bravery, including the Minister, Jane Ellison, who said that “nothing could more amply demonstrate the importance of putting cancer patients’ experience at the heart of the NHS”.
In their responses to the debate, Macmillan was pleased to hear both Minister and Shadow Minister reiterate the importance of improving cancer outcomes, and pay tribute to the work of All Party Groups and charities that have campaigned on these issues during this Parliament. It is now essential that this momentum is not lost – and that all parties ensure that improving cancer outcomes remains a priority both during the General Election, and beyond.
To find out how you can help to ensure that cancer is a priority in the manifestos of all the political parties, visit our website here.