Yesterday, we attended the Britain Against Cancer conference which celebrated 20 years of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC). Our Policy and Public Affairs Officer Helena Brown, reports
It brought together patients, policymakers and charity representatives to discuss the most important cancer policy issues.
Chair of the APPGC, Nic Dakin MP, opened the conference in his new role and paid tribute to the previous Chair John Baron MP who had represented the APPGC for almost ten years. It was a great display in how some issues transcend party politics and bring people together.
The conference was very encouraging in its approach to the patient voice and everyone there was passionate about putting patients first and ensuring nobody gets left behind.
Cameron Miller, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at The Brain Tumour Charity, presented alongside Preth Rao, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Pancreatic UK, on behalf of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce.
This coalition of charities is committed to improving outcomes for people affected by the less survivable cancers. These cancers include brain, pancreatic, stomach, oesophageal, liver and lung.
They both emphasised the importance of the #28b29 which is calling on NHS England to accept a five-year survival target of 28% for these cancers to be achieved by 2029.
One of the most stirring presentations was from Karen Lee MP who opened on behalf of All.Can and spoke openly about her passion for improving treatment and care for patients across the UK.
She shared her own personal story with cancer and about losing her daughter, whilst also sharing some frustrations with Brexit dominating the political agenda when there is much to be resolved in other departments and on other issues.
Karen also highlighted the necessity for improving access to psychological support. It is brilliant that politicians are shining a spotlight on patient experience and making evident that treatment alone is not enough.
We need to be ambitious in our approach to cancer care and ensure that everybody can access appropriate support following a diagnosis, an issue we are taking forwards currently.
Nick Robinson, the BBC journalist who chaired a discussion, shared openly about his own personal experience of lung cancer and emphasised the importance of quality of life after treatment for him. He made clear that we need to recognise the challenges that people face when they live with and beyond cancer and address these.
Further patient representation was provided by Anita Brown, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer and spoke powerfully about the importance of emotional support. She really helped to highlight the ripple effect that cancer can have on family and friends.
It was encouraging news from Cally Palmer, NHS England National Cancer Director, who stressed that new targets around early diagnosis will incorporate all cancers.
For too long, less survivable cancers have been overlooked on the political agenda but she reaffirmed that this will not be the case going forwards or in the NHS Long Term Plan which is due to be published shortly.
The conference ultimately highlighted the enormous progress that has been made but also illustrated the huge amount of work left to do.
We need to continue to inform policymakers of the necessity for a survival target for the less survivable cancers and keep campaigning to ensure that everyone has equal access to the best treatment and care possible.
Our community will be at the heart of this.