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11th December 2019

Our commitment to you for 2020 and beyond

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On the eve of what may be the most crucial General Election since the War our duty remains clear: we stand up for all those affected by lung cancer.

This election will shape the future direction of this country for generations to come. It will determine our relationships with Europe and the rest of the world and may even prove decisive as to the continued existence of the United Kingdom itself.

Whoever forms the next government, whatever their values or perspectives, they will face crucial decisions about our health service. It is a major priority.

Around 46,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK during 2020 and this charity will be here for each and every one of them.

We challenge the next government to show the same commitment.

In 2020 Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation will mark 30 years of standing shoulder to shoulder with all those affected by lung cancer.

From the very start we based our work around four key areas:

Research – funding ground-breaking projects to improve early detection and patient experiences

Support – ensuring people affected by lung cancer receive the best practical and emotional support for their needs

Prevention – working in schools, colleges and workplaces to equip our young people to make informed lifestyle choices thus reducing their risk of getting lung cancer

Campaigning and influencing – working to ensure patients have fair and equal access to the best treatments and care.

These remain our core objectives and values. They have not changed. They won’t change.

We work independently of central government to press for improvements in these four key areas. We hold to account politicians, policymakers and influencers whose decisions impact people affected by lung cancer.

We recognised the need for urgent action to detect lung cancer at an early stage, so we funded a series of targeted Lung Health Checks to prove their effectiveness. Our data helped convince the Department of Health to roll out 14 similar schemes across ten locations in England in 2019.      

We challenge the new government to protect funding and resources for these Lung Health Checks. We want to see similar schemes introduced across the whole of the UK, culminating in the implementation of a national lung cancer screening programme.

Lung cancer kills over 35,000 people in the UK every year; far more than any other form of cancer. Yet, for decades, the UK spent more on funding research into other forms of cancer, an inequality we highlighted and campaigned to redress.

Now, research dedicated specifically to lung cancer receives funding second only to breast cancer. This is a significant improvement and more in line with the impact of the disease.

We challenge the new government to sustain this level of research funding for lung cancer.

Lung cancer survival one year after diagnosis and after five years has improved over the last 20 years but much work remains to be done to raise UK survival rates to match those of other leading nations such as Norway, Australia and Canada.

To do this, the new government must recognise that our NHS needs proper resources and well-trained staff in key positions. Early diagnosis is key to improving survival for lung cancer. Yet too many patients face delays – time lost that costs lives.

Too often, patients have to wait:

  • More than two weeks from urgent referral by a GP to first appointment with a consultant 
  • More than one month from a decision to treat to receiving surgery
  • More than two months from urgent referral by a GP to first treatment

This is not acceptable.

We challenge the new government to support our NHS by making sure that enough staff and resources are in place to meet target times for all lung cancer patients right across the UK.

We recognise it takes time to recruit and train staff, to assess critical systematic flaws and introduce measures to fully address delays. What we require is a clear and unbreakable commitment to put those measures in place.

We challenge the new government to make that commitment – and deliver on it.

As the voice of people living with lung cancer, we call on the new government to take the following steps to support and protect people diagnosed with lung cancer:

Make raising survival rates a priority.

Make early diagnosis of lung cancer a priority.

Support lung health check schemes currently in place in England and expand the programme across the rest of the UK.

Address inequalities in research funding.

Invest in the lung cancer workforce and resources across our NHS.

Support and promote better public awareness of lung cancer.

Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.