It’s a big week for the All Party-Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC). Ahead of today’s Britain Against Cancer conference and Thursday’s much-anticipated Backbench Business debate on cancer in Parliament, Ayesha Ahmed, Secretariat to the APPGC, reflects on the inquiry held by the group earlier this year into the progress of the 2015 Cancer Strategy in England.
Cancer services in England are at a crucial turning point. It is estimated that by 2030, 3.4 million people will be living with cancer in England and this figure continues to increase. Transforming cancer services is no longer an option but a necessity, and is why implementation of the England Cancer Strategy is so important. This is an issue that Macmillan have been working on in our capacity as Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC), a position we have held for over seven years.
What is the APPGC?
The APPGC was founded in 1998 with the aim to keep cancer at the top of the parliamentary agenda, and to ensure that cancer policy remains evidence based and patient centred. The group consists of cross-party MPs and Peers, who monitor government initiatives, produce briefings for parliamentarians and campaign and debate on key issues in order to bring about improved cancer services for all those people affected by cancer.
September’s inquiry report
In May this year, the APPGC held an inquiry looking into progress made since the publication of the report, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020 (‘Cancer Strategy’) by the Independent Cancer Taskforce in July 2015, including a focus on the implementation plan published by NHS England in May 2016, Achieving World Class Outcomes: Taking the Strategy Forward (the Implementation Plan) which set out how the recommendations would be rolled out over the next five years.
The APPGC received written submissions from over 30 stakeholder organisations, from charities, pharmaceutical companies to Royal Colleges and patient representatives, and hosted oral evidence session to hear from key decision makers.
Having collated all the oral and written evidence, the APPGC published a report, Progress into the implementation of the England Cancer Strategy: one year on.
What needs to happen?
Whilst welcome progress has been made on delivering certain recommendations within the England Cancer Strategy since its publication, the APPGC’s inquiry highlighted concerns regarding the Implementation Plan and lack of visible progress made in other areas.
The APPGC therefore put forward three key recommendations to the Government and NHS England:
- Firstly, the government needs to give further clarity over how it intends to fund the England Cancer Strategy each year, over the next four years. Many contributors expressed their disappointment over the absence of detail on funding in the Implementation Plan, and sought specifics about how available funding would be used to deliver improvements across the entire cancer pathway. Whilst some of this detail was set out in the Cancer Transformation Board’s one year on report, further clarity is still needed on how funding will be allocated to the six strategic areas outlined in the Strategy.
- There needs to be further transparency regarding progress from NHS England and other Arms-length Bodies on how each of the recommendations as outlined in the England Cancer Strategy are being delivered. In addition, more detail is needed to explain how the Department of Health intend to hold these bodies to account and measure success of the delivery of the England Cancer Strategy by 2020.
- Thirdly, the APPGC called on the National Cancer Transformation Board and the National Cancer Advisory Group to ensure greater involvement and collaboration with charities, other arms-length bodies and patients in the delivery of the England Cancer Strategy, locally and nationally.
The APPGC’s annual flagship event, Britain Against Cancer, is in its 18th year. As part of the conference today, we will be highlighting the Inquiry Report recommendations, calling on Government and NHS England to respond to the report and discussing how the cancer community can come together and work to ensure improved cancer outcomes. Follow the conference at #BritainAgainstCancer and Macmillan’s updates @MacmillanPA
The APPGC have also secured a Backbench Business debate on Thursday, titled Cancer Strategy: one year on, which also serves as a timely and welcome opportunity to discuss cancer services in the NHS today. The debate will be a crucial opportunity for MPs to question the Minister on how the Strategy is progressing, and we look forward to monitoring the contributions on Thursday.