Britain Against Cancer 2017

Britain Against Cancer was held on 5 December 2017 in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

The conference was attended by over 450 delegates, who heard from high profile keynote speakers including the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, John Baron MP and the Patient Representative and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Collaborative Care, Fiona Carey. 

Delegates also heard from an expert panel including Director of Strategy at Health Education England, Jo Lenaghan, Clinical Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, Professor Sean Duffy and patient advocate and founder if After Breast Cancer Diagnosis & METUPUK , Jo Taylor.

The conference launched the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer's inquiry report on the England Cancer Strategy as it reached its halfway stage. The report concluded that the Cancer Strategy 'risks failure unless NHS England takes corrective action'.

The Secretary of State for Health also announced the publication of Health Education England's Cancer Workforce Plan

Report in summary: APPGC Progress of the England Cancer Strategy: Delivering outcomes by 2020

In summary, the report highlights:

  • Challenges facing the cancer workforce which pose a significant threat to the success of the Cancer Strategy.
  • Significant delays in a strategic review of the cancer workforce, which underpins the success of the strategy.
  • Concern around the delays in the release of Transformation Funding for Cancer Alliances as well as the requirements to demonstrate an improvement in the 62-day wait standard as a prerequisite to access their transformation funding.
  • The need for an increased focus on improving transparency and lines of communication.
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Notes from the nine BAC Talk sessions, along with the expert panel and keynotes from the day can be found below:

Keynote speeches

John Baron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer. More info

John Baron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer:

John Baron opened the conference by welcoming all attendees and reflected on the work and activities of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC) over the last year.

John gave a brief summary of the inquiry report, launched that day. He spoke of highlights from the report, including the recommendation that the release of transformational funding to Cancer Alliances is de-coupled from improvement in the 62-day waiting time target needs, and the need for NHS England to improve accountability and lines of communications. He also spoke of how Health Education England’s Cancer Workforce Plan needs to receive the necessary commitment and funding to ensure that progress is made on this vital issue.

In addition, John spoke of how survival rates in the UK are improving and are at their highest ever rate, however the UK is still far behind international averages and needs to do more to catch-up. He also noted that there is a strong cancer community who have worked well together in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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Nick Robinson, Presenter of BBC Today Programme More info

Nick Robinson, Presenter of BBC Today Programme

Nick opened his talk by highlighting that this is the right time to have a conference such as this; when money is tight, that is when the most important decisions need to be made and therefore this conference is a good platform for these discussions.

Nick spoke about his own cancer experience – he had lung cancer in 2015 and he thanked the health system for supporting him through his cancer journey. When speaking about his experience, he said that there is a need for clear information and support for patients. He explained the need for clinicians and practitioners to educate patients so that they can understand the data and information they are given, so that they understand it in a way that makes sense to them.

He also spoke about the uncertainty of cancer and saying again, how patients need to be educated in this uncertainty and how things aren’t guaranteed, for example, when you will go back to work, what your next treatment will be – this uncertainty is something that cancer patients need to be able to live with. Nick also highlighted the importance of life after treatment and that the cancer journey is not over when treatment ends and life doesn’t necessarily return back to normal.

To close, Nick emphasised how important it is to remember that everyone is on the same side and everyone has the same goal of preventing cancer and helping and supporting those that do have cancer.

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Fiona Carey, Patient Representative and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Collaborative Care More info

Fiona Carey, Patient Representative and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Collaborative Care

Fiona told the conference about living with cancer for 16 years, having been first diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2001. She said that cancer has cost her career, her mobility and her health; however, she said that she still has a good life.

Fiona echoed some of the sentiments of Nick Robinson’s speech, highlighting the fact that not only is every patient different but every cancer is also different. Because of this, cancer treatment and care should be focused around what matters to you, rather than what others tell you is important. 

Fiona used a diagram to highlight the less obvious impacts of cancer such as emotional energy, finances and the fact that your ‘confidence is forever brittle’. She used this to make the point that what might seem mundane to health professionals, is actually life changing to people affected by cancer.

Fiona explained how important she thinks patient involvement is in terms of service improvements as patients are the ones that experience the service and see things that clinicians and health professionals can’t. She said not only is it an operational necessity, but a moral imperative. 

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Cally Palmer CBE, National Director for Cancer, NHS England More info

Cally Palmer CBE, National Director for Cancer, NHS England

In Cally’s speech, she talked about the progress of the Cancer Strategy this year. She opened by using two patient stories, one positive and one negative to illustrate the wide gap in outcomes that the Cancer Strategy is trying to close.

Cally reflected on the positive progress of the last year and presented delegates with some of the key developments that have been delivered to date, for example, the establishment of 19 Cancer Alliances, piloting a new quality of life metric to measure long-term outcomes for patients after cancer treatment and that 23 NHS Trusts now have new and upgraded radiotherapy machines.  On Transformation Funding, she reiterated that some Cancer Alliances are still developing and that funding is being phased accordingly, with the first wave of funding having already been allocated. Cally said that whilst there has been lots of progress in achieving the Cancer Strategy, there is still more that needs to happen.

Closing, Cally said she is optimistic that the Cancer Strategy will deliver on its 96 recommendations by 2020.

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Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health More info

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Jonathan opened by welcoming the report from the APPGC but said that it showed that there is much that still needs to be done. He said that a Labour Government would prioritise improving cancer care and achieving the best possible outcomes, and that would mean resourcing and staffing the NHS properly. He said that a Labour Government’s focus would also be on early diagnosis of cancer and that Labour would tackle childhood obesity by reducing exposure to junk food marketing and increase funding for quitting smoking.

Jonathan talked strongly about the importance of funding, saying that budget constraints risk hampering the efforts of hardworking staff and that the Cancer Workforce Strategy needs to be backed up by clear funding to ensure it meets its ambitions. Finally, he said how important post-treatment support is and the need to resource this properly as well.

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Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health More info

Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health

In the Health Secretary's speech, he addressed issues around the cancer workforce and said that dealing with workforce pressures is ‘mission critical’ to improving cancer outcomes and he acknowledged the workforce points that had been made in the APPGC report.

Based on these concerns, Jeremy announced the publication of Health Education England's (HEE) Cancer Workforce Plan which included ambitions to train 300 more endoscopists and 200 more radiographers. He also said that he wanted every patient to have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist by 2021.

Jeremy also spoke of the importance of early diagnosis, highlighting that only 52% of cancers are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2. Finally, he said that we have a human and moral imperative to get this right for cancer patients.

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Expert panel

Britain Against Cancer Conference - a group shot of the expert panel More info

Expert Panel

The expert panel consisted of Jo Lenaghan, Director of Strategy, Health Education England, Sean Duffy, Cancer Alliance Lead, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, Dr Afsana Safa, GP and clinical lead for North West London, Jo Taylor, Patient advocate and founder of After Breast Cancer Diagnosis & METUPUK and John Baron MP, Chair of the APPGC. The panel session was chaired by Nick Robinson.

A range of questions were submitted by the audience to the panel, the first being whether progress of the Cancer Strategy was on track, which received a mix response. The panel was also questioned about workforce, with all saying that retaining the cancer workforce and planning for future demand is crucial.

Transformation funding and the de-coupling of it from the 62 day wait standard was also discussed, with some highlighting the importance of transformation funding and the injection of activity that it can bring to a Cancer Alliance. Waiting times were also discussed with Jo Taylor saying that as a patient, waiting 62 days is far too long.

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The BAC Talk Series

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Britain Against Cancer over the years...

Britain Against Cancer 2016

Access the keynote speeches, expert panels and BAC talks from the 2016 BAC conference. The conference highlighted the inquiry report on the England Cancer Strategy.

Britain Against Cancer 2014

The last conference before the General Election, BAC 2014 included for the first time, a keynote speech from NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.

Britain Against Cancer 2013

Britain Against Caner 2013 saw the launch of the APPG’s report ‘Cancer across the Domains’, which looked at cancer priorities following the Health and Social Care Act 2013.