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An audience with the Prime Minister to mark Twenty years of World Cancer Day

Nicola Boyd

MHP Health’s Nicola Boyd is given the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister to discuss cancer priorities.

World Cancer Day celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, having been founded in 2000 to raise awareness of the global cancer challenge.  With global awareness days becoming a crowded space, their significance can sometimes be overlooked.  However, with 9.6 million people dying every year from cancer and with this projected to rise to 13 million by 2030, the importance of World Cancer Day cannot be overstated.  The sense of urgency when it comes to cancer treatment and care applies just as much to the UK as to other countries.  Thanks to progress in research, two in four people in the UK survive their cancer for ten years or more.  However, the demand for life-saving cancer diagnoses and treatments is rising every day as one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

With each passing year, World Cancer Day has marked the fantastic progress in tackling this disease.  From ground breaking technological advancements and research breakthroughs, to increased public awareness and political will, the past two decades have seen remarkable change.  It is vital that we keep up the momentum and that those who can deliver change, stay engaged in the issues of cancer diagnosis and therapy.

I began volunteering for Cancer Research UK as a Campaigns Ambassador to muster my will for making change happen and influence those most capable of delivering change.  In this role I meet with MPs, write to Ministers and engage with the general public to raise awareness of CRUK’s campaigns and policies.

Nicola (second row, in red) alongside other CRUK invitees to the reception in Downing Street

To mark World Cancer Day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked to meet with people affected by cancer and volunteer Campaigns Ambassadors at Number 10.  I was extremely fortunate to go to Downing Street, joining the Executive Director of Policy and the Director of Policy at CRUK, along with fellow Ambassadors and people affected by cancer.  During our meeting we discussed the current campaigns being undertaken by Cancer Research UK and set out two specific policy priorities for the Government.

The first was in regard to the NHS workforce shortages and for the Government to train and employ more diagnostic staff.  You are three times more likely to survive a cancer diagnosis if it is caught in the early stages, yet currently only half of people are diagnosed early.  One in ten diagnostic posts are vacant in the NHS, which is why we asked Boris Johnson for a fully funded NHS workforce plan that will train and employ more radiographers, endoscopists and pathologists.

Our second ask was for the Government to realise the importance of and commit to investment in the life sciences sector and to ensure that the UK remains a world leader in the research and development of new treatments.  The progress that has been made in the development of novel cancer medicines would not have been possible without international collaboration and funding and it is essential that this continues as we build a new relationship with the EU.

We were able to discuss many of the issues relating to cancer, including the risks associated with obesity and smoking as well as the importance of an early diagnosis.  It was great to have the encouragement of the Prime Minister for the work that CRUK does and to have support for CRUK’s policy asks.  The Government set a bold ambition to see 75 percent of cancers diagnosed in the early stages by 2028 but this pledge will not be realised without concerted action and investment.

Visiting Downing Street was an unforgettable experience and a privilege to discuss such important issues with the Prime Minister.  I’m grateful for the opportunities within the MHP Health team to continue to pursue my interest in a professional context, and am excited to see how our work can benefit those living with and affected by the disease.