Sajid Javid delivers speech on Department of Health and Social Care’s 10-Year Cancer Plan for England and announces a call for evidence

This lunchtime (4th Feb 2022), Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, delivered a speech at the Francis Crick Institute outlining his vision to make England a world-leader in cancer care and announced a call for evidence to inform a new 10-Year Cancer Plan for England.

The call for evidence on the 10-Year Cancer Plan will run for a period of 8 weeks, closing at 11:45pm on 1st April.

In the call for evidence, the Plan’s six priorities are outlined as:

  1. Cancer prevention
  2. Early diagnosis
  3. Diagnostic and treatment capacity
  4. High quality, personalised care
  5. Cancer workforce
  6. World class science, data and research community

Within his speech, Javid announced a “national war on cancer”, with a strong focus on early diagnosis and prevention. He positioned prevention as intertwined with the Government’s levelling up ambitions and underlined the importance of overcoming health disparities. This included asserting his focus on improving diversity of clinical trials. Javid highlighted the upcoming Health Disparities white paper which will address core drivers of inequalities in health including a focus on levelling up disparities in cancer.

The call for evidence requests views on what measures could be introduced to tackle these inequalities in a “more profound way.” The document outlines projects already underway, including the Targeted Lung Health Check (TLHC) which is focused on geographical areas with high levels of deprivation. It also asks how the Cancer Quality of Life survey data can be used to improve care, support, and services for patients.

It is encouraging to see that regional inequalities in the cancer care pathway have been identified as a priority area by government in their 10-Year Cancer Plan, reiterating the importance of All.Can UK’s upcoming project which will involve looking at publicly available data (including the Quality of Life survey) to highlight the regional variation in psycho-social support for cancer patients.

Javid also used his speech to emphasise key missions within the call for evidence such as expanding screening programmes, trialling new routes into primary care and improving data sharing.

He sought to reiterate the value of innovation and enterprise in fighting cancer, stating his ambition to make the UK “the best place in the world” to develop innovative cancer medicines, such as immuno-oncology treatments and cancer vaccines. He highlighted the importance of embedding learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic to transform all aspects of cancer care.

In response to the announcement, Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, welcomed the consultation’s ambitions on cancer data and early diagnosis, but criticised the omission of measures to improve workforce shortages.

Please find an outline below of what information has been requested with regards to each priority area of the Plan.

Cancer prevention

  • The call for evidence requests information on what more could be done to establish the best possible, and most comprehensive, prevention programme in the strategy.
  • The document cites that there is a need to address the environmental factors which increase the risk of cancer, including smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
  • The document reiterates the government's focus on prevention and restates the commitment for the administration of HPV vaccinations being extended.

Early diagnosis

  • The call for evidence requests information on “promising innovations” that can help diagnose people earlier, “as well as any barriers or enablers for rolling these out in the NHS.”
  • The call for evidence says the Government is committed to improving early diagnosis through awareness campaigns, extending bowel cancer screening, expanding the roll-out of Targeted Lung Health Checks and launching a new liver surveillance programme.

 Reducing inequalities

  • The call for evidence requests views on what measures could be introduced to tackle inequalities in a “more profound way”.
  • The document mentions that specific projects designed to tackle inequalities are underway, including the Targeted Lung Health Check (TLHC), which is focused on areas with high levels of deprivation, and the national ‘Help Us Help You’ cancer awareness campaigns, aimed at older people, people from more deprived groups and ethnic minority audiences.

 Cancer pathways – faster diagnosis and treatment

  • The call for evidence asks for people’s experiences on ways to make the cancer pathways more efficient, and if there are any areas that could be improved. Specifically, it asks whether the NHS App should be used more prominently within cancer diagnosis.
  • At the last Spending Review, an extra £5.9 billion of capital to support elective recovery, diagnostics and technology over the next three years was announced.
  • Commitments have been made to increase the roll out of community diagnostic centres (CDCs), introduce new Targeted Lung Health Checks and to improve data use.

 Personalised care

  • The call for evidence requests views on how the data from the Cancer Quality of Life Survey, published in October 2021, can be used to improve care, support and services for patients.
  • Improvements to follow-up care for cancer patients will be made imminently in breast, colorectal and prostate cancers and this roll-out will be extended to at least five additional cancer types by 2024. It will be ensured that patients are made aware of what to look out for in case their cancer returns and provide them with reassurance that they can get back in contact quickly with their treatment team if they are concerned.

 The workforce

  • The call for evidence acknowledges the need to sustain the workforce in order to “keep pace with demand and improve services.”
  • The call for evidence stated that investment would be made in developing new roles such as cancer pathway navigators to free up more highly qualified staff. Investment will also be made in new technology to make diagnostic reporting more efficient and in training and upskilling the current and future workforce.

 Harnessing technology

  • The call for evidence asks for input on how to best support and accelerate research and development across all aspects of cancer care, including early diagnosis, discovery science, clinical trials, commercialisation and NHS uptake. 
  • The call for evidence states that a key part of achieving the DHSC’s 10-Year Cancer Plan is an increased drive in the “development and commercialisation of new cancer medicines, diagnostics, and genomic and predictive technologies in the UK, acting as a testbed for oncology innovation.”
  • The document also says that Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital and data will play an important role in early diagnosis.

 Cancer screening

  • The call for evidence is looking for suggestions on how to maximise the contribution of population-based or targeted-screening for the earlier detection and fast diagnosis of cancers. It also is looking at how to integrate targeted screening in high-risk groups.
  • The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) is expected to be re-launched in spring 2022 with an expanded remit to review targeted screening, alongside its current remit covering the existing NHS population screening programmes.
  • Commitments have been made to diagnose more cancers at stage 1 and 2 so outcomes for patients are improved.

 Going further faster

  • The call for evidence welcomes suggestions on what more could be done to ensure “patients get the practical benefit of ground-breaking research as rapidly and as effectively as possible.” Specifically, it asks for input on how mRNA vaccines can be used to further protect the population against cancer types which are caused by viruses.