Workshop: Case study - Macmillan prioritises cancer spend

Francois Le Goff

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Background: In 2000, the Government introduced the NHS Cancer Plan for England to increase investment in cancer services. Although they welcomed the move, cancer charities began to raise concerns over the apparent lack of clarity about how the money was being spent. Macmillan Cancer Relief launched its 'Get It Spent Where It's Meant' campaign in December 2002, arguing that funding allocated to cancer services was failing to reach patients.

The Department of Health then conducted a tracking exercise that revealed serious flaws in the monitoring of funds. In a document aimed at the 28 strategic health authorities responsible for improving the NHS's performance in England, the DoH confirmed that the data on cancer investment contained 'too many omissions and inaccuracies'. The Government allocated £255m for improvements in cancer care in 2001/2, and £76m in 2002/3, but the health authorities were not able to account for the money.

Aims: Macmillan's campaign urged the Government to make sure that the NHS kept accurate records of investments made in cancer services for the year 2003/4 and beyond.

How it worked: Macmillan urged MPs to write to their local NHS strategic health authority, asking them to produce projections for spending on cancer services over the next three years, and to show how patients are involved in the development, delivery and evaluation of local plans for service improvement.

Around a third of England's MPs supported the campaign in their constituency.

The responses they received from the strategic health authorities helped Macmillan develop four key recommendations that were presented at a second Parliamentary reception in November 2003, attended by Health Secretary John Reid.

Results: In March, members of the All-Party Parliamentary Cancer Group tabled an Early Day Motion recording their support for the campaign. So far, almost 130 MPs have signed the motion.

Last month, Get It Spent Where It's Meant was rated the most effective campaign by think-tank NFP Synergy. The twice-yearly NFP Synergy Charity Parliamentary Monitor put Macmillan ahead of other UK charities for the third consecutive time.

The campaign generated strong media coverage, featuring in almost half of all coverage of Macmillan's parliamentary work in the press and on TV in 2003 - a total of 72 out of 152 items. TV presenter John Snow devoted an 11-minute slot to Macmillan's campaign on Channel 4 News. In addition, press releases devised by MPs as part of their support were reported widely in their constituency press.

According to the survey, which looks at campaigns that have run over the last six months, 82 per cent of MPs named 'Get It Spent Where It's Meant' as the campaign that they were most aware of. Age Concern and Amnesty International campaigns tied for second place.

Macmillan chief executive Peter Cardy said: "MPs' support for the campaign has been impressive and crucial to putting the issue of improved resource-tracking for Cancer Plan money high on ministers' and the NHS's agenda."

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