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MP leads cross-party calls for Government to intervene to prevent 30,000 cancer deaths

August 24, 2020 2:06 PM

Local MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy Tim Farron is leading cross-party calls for an emergency response to the cancer backlog created by the COVID-19 crisis.

107 MPs from all parties have signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to intervene on behalf of cancer patients to ensure NHS cancer services rapidly return to normal levels within weeks, and have called on him to deliver an emergency boost to treatment capacity to deal with the cancer backlog.

The #CatchUpWithCancer letter highlights the concerns among the public and cancer community that the current end of year time scale for the normal resumption of NHS cancer services is too slow. Without an emergency intervention to accelerate the rapid return to normal levels within weeks and a plan boost cancer treatment capacity to tackle the cancer backlog, experts warn that 35,000 lives may be lost unnecessarily.

The letter argues that smart and cost-effective solutions being offered by the cancer community should be adopted to quickly respond to the crisis.

This includes a boost to radiotherapy by implementing the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy's 6-point plan to transform and revitalise the radiotherapy sector in a way that would unleash its full potential to help tackle the cancer backlog.

The #CatchUpWithCancer campaign was launched by the family of Kelly Smith, in collaboration with Radiotherapy4Life, to call for an emergency response to tackle the backlog resulting from Covid induced delays and save thousands of lives. Kelly's family feel her life was tragically cut short as a result of interruptions to her cancer treatment are campaigning to help prevent thousands of families experiencing the same heart-breaking tragedy they have. A Change.org petition launched by Kelly's parents, Craig and Mandy Russell, quickly reached over 200,000 supporters following Kelly's appearance on Panorama's investigation into Britain's Cancer Crisis just before her sad and untimely death at the age of just 31.

Tim said: "A catastrophic cancer crisis is unfolding right now and the results could be disastrous for millions of families. It is not enough to get services back up and running by the end of the year.

"That is why colleagues from all parties are demanding action to prevent the unnecessary loss of more life to cancer than to the coronavirus itself. It really doesn't have to be this way.

"We are calling on the Prime Minister to deliver a lifesaving intervention and boost services to deal with the cancer treatment backlog. Radiotherapy services for example can play a vital role in clearing the cancer backlog, deliver treatment closer to people's homes and rapidly build our cancer fighting capacity for years to come."

Chair of Action Radiotherapy and Founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer & Radiotherapy4Life campaigns, Professor Pat Price said: "I urge the Prime Minister to listen to both his colleagues and the hundreds of thousands of concerned people who have signed the #CatchUpWithCancer petition.

"This is the biggest crisis in cancer services in my lifetime. We need a dramatic intervention from Government, or we will lose thousands of lives unnecessarily to cancer.

"Cancer will not wait. One look at the comments on the 200,000 strong petition and it is clear people are desperate, angry and scared. We are on the cusp of national tragedy that we have the power to prevent.

"There are smart cost-effective solutions which can quickly be deployed and help the NHS. We need a bold transformative boost to services, like radiotherapy, which can play a vital role in helping us to tackle the cancer backlog.

"Nothing short of the same energy and focus as the response to the coronavirus itself is needed to prevent a national disaster. "

Craig and Mandy Russell, parents to Kelly Smith, said: "It is so important to us that MPs are supporting the campaign and recognising that we need to get cancer services back up and running to ensure that millions of other families do not suffer as we have done. Kelly would be proud to see the way the public and politicians have responded.

"But delivering lifesaving change is the most important thing. We just hope that the Prime Minister will recognise the severity of the situation and act to help the NHS catch up with cancer. "