Manifesto week: Radiotherapy chair Prof Price comments on cancer pledges

Manifesto Week and UK cancer patients

Professor Price joins representatives from the radiotherapy community at UKIO
Professor Price (third from the right) with representatives from the radiotherapy community at UKIO this week

With manifesto week underway, the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign has been watching carefully for pledges that could help thousands of cancer patients waiting too long for treatment.

Join 622k people and sign the campaign petition

Chair of Radiotherapy UK, Professor Pat Price said: “The simple reality is that cancer services in the UK are in crisis, and it will take a focused, concerted effort by the next Government to improve cancer outcomes. We’re pleased to see political parties acknowledging the dire status quo in cancer, but the true test will be what happens once the next Parliament begins.”

In a promising moment for the campaign, the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledged to replace ageing radiotherapy treatment machines: the first time this life-saving treatment has ever been named in an election manifesto. While the Labour manifesto made cancer a top priority.

Labour manifesto ‘breath of fresh air’

Commenting on the Labour manifesto, co-founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign and chair of Radiotherapy UK, a leading oncologist, Professor Pat Price said:

“It is a breath of fresh air to see cancer at the front and centre of Labour’s manifesto. We welcome the commitment to offering more appointments and reducing waiting times.

“While commitments to increase the number of CT and MRI scanners for cancer diagnosis are welcome, we urge Labour to ensure that radiotherapy cancer treatment machines form a part of this plan. It is vital that we not only diagnose cancer patients early but we treat them quickly too.”

Liberal Democrats pledge radiotherapy investment

Professor Pat Price at the launch of a 10-year Vision for Radiotherapy

Professor Price, commenting on the Liberal Democrat manifesto, added: “With cancer waiting times stubbornly stuck at record levels, Radiotherapy UK welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ commitments to boost cancer survival rates and guarantee that 100% of patients will start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral. We are pleased to see the pledge to replace ageing radiotherapy cancer treatment machines and increase their overall number. Better access to radiotherapy is vital for timely cancer treatment.

“A dedicated national cancer plan, including a fully funded strategy for radiotherapy, will bring the UK in line with international best practice, and get us on the path to recovery.”

‘Disappointing’ response from Conservatives

However, Professor Price has also shared her extreme disappointment that cancer is barely mentioned in the Conservative party manifesto.

Professor Price said: “With cancer waits still the most deadly of NHS backlogs and with little sign of any significant improvement against the key target of treatment within 62 days of urgent referral its extremely disappointing and alarming that cancer receives only two brief mentions in the Conservative manifesto.  There is no commitment to the reinstatement of a dedicated national cancer plan and no mention of the need to boost the high-tech sectors such as radiotherapy that could so easily, and affordably, play a much greater role in tackling the cancer crisis.  A deeply disappointing document on one of the main health issues of our time.

A summary of the three main parties’ pledges on cancer

Labour Manifesto

Cancer is mentioned four times.

  1. “Double the number of cancer scanners” was put on the cover page of the health section of the manifesto.
  2. In the intro to the health section, they said “We will deliver a renewed drive to tackle the biggest killers; cutting the lives lost to cancer, cardiovascular disease and suicide, while ensuring people live well for longer.”

Further on, in a section about Modernising the NHS, Labour put these two lines in within the same paragraph:

  1. “Too many cancer deaths could have been prevented with earlier diagnosis.”
  2. “Therefore, Labour will introduce a new ‘Fit For the Future’ fund to double the number of CT and MRI scanners, allowing the NHS to catch cancer and other conditions earlier, saving lives.”

Conservative Manifesto

In the conservative manifesto, cancer was mentioned twice. In the intro they said:

  • “We are committed to accelerating the NHS’s recovery from the pandemic, delivering safe and effective services and ongoing improvements in waiting times for primary, elective, cancer and emergency care.”

When discussing the publication of the Major Conditions Strategy they said:

  • “We know that, for most people, poor health comes from living with one or more of six major health conditions: cancer, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, mental ill-health, dementia and respiratory disease.”

Lib Dems Manifesto

  • The Lib Dems made a commitment to “Boost cancer survival rates and introduce a guarantee for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral.”

In their “more detail” section, they have an entire subsection dedicated to cancer detailing how they’ll boost cancer survival.

Boost cancer survival rates by:

  • Introducing a guarantee that 100% of patients will be able to start treatment within 62 days from urgent referral.
  • Replacing ageing radiotherapy machines and increasing their number, so no one has to travel too far for treatment.
  • Recruiting more cancer nurses so that every patient has a dedicated specialist supporting them throughout their treatment.
  • Passing a Cancer Survival Research Act requiring the Government to coordinate and ensure funding for research into the cancers with the lowest survival rates.
  • Halving the time for new treatments to reach patients by expanding the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s capacity.
  • Launching a new prostate cancer screening programme for those at higher risk.

More about the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign

The #CatchUpWithCancer campaign is the UK’s longest and loudest around treatment delays and champions radiotherapy as an affordable and innovative treatment that could help cut deadly waiting times for treatment, with the right investment and leadership.

With two parliamentary debates and a 10-year Vision launched in recent years, the campaign and its supporters have been working hard to see the potential of radiotherapy recognised.

The campaign and petition were launched back in 2020 by Craig and Mandy Russell and Professor Pat Price, chair of Radiotherapy UK.

Craig and Mandy lost their daughter, Kelly Smith, at the age of 31. Her cancer treatment was stopped because of the pandemic and she died just a few weeks later, leaving behind her family and young son. Since then, the Russell family have campaigned tirelessly, urging the government to catch up with cancer.

Read Kelly’s story here.

Supported by cancer patients 

Andy Tudor was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017, and now volunteers with Radiotherapy UK.

He said: “I am one of only 12% of people in this country that survive longer than five years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

I got the treatment I needed on time, both surgery and radiotherapy, and everyone deserves the same. It shouldn’t be a postcode lottery.

Campaigning with Radiotherapy UK and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign is something I am very proud to be part of. We are a powerful voice, with the patient at the heart of everything, and the progress we are making is well worth supporting.”

Leave a Reply