Focus: Policy and Politics - Prostate cancer goes right to the top

Nathalie Thomas

Campaign aims to get a dedicated select committee on the disease.

A separate cross-party select committee on prostate cancer is one of the aims behind a major lobbying campaign launched by the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action this week.

"Prostate cancer really does merit that degree of specialist attention," said John Neate, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, one of the 22 organisations that are party to the charter.

"It's absolutely essential that we have a core of committed MPs from across the parties who are willing to work together and look at this issue."

Parliament's first Audio Day Motion kicked the campaign off on Monday, with the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Conservative leader Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

"Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK," said Blair. "It is a priority for us to tackle."

Howard added: "Prostate cancer is a condition that could affect any man of my age. Despite this, it remains a taboo subject for many."

The Audio Day Motion was organised by public affairs consultancy AS Biss to "breathe a bit more life" into Early Day Motions. With hundreds of EDMs printed every day, it was felt an ADM would "add a bit more energy", said Dominic Pendry, consultant at AS Biss.

But he added: "Catching the eye should be only one small part. It can't be only about gimmicks." Meetings with officials, MPs and the Department of Health will follow to push the charter's new calls for action, Pendry explained.

Neate is anticipating an announcement about some form of cross-party committee or partnership at the National Prostate Cancer Conference in London tomorrow. He believes co-operation should not be at parliamentary level only.

"Politicians, the voluntary sector and business should work together to find new ways of crossing boundaries and driving for change," according to Neate.

One area where this co-operation could be effective is in delivering adequate information about prostate cancer to men who have just been diagnosed with the disease, Neate added.

Research published tomorrow by the Prostate Cancer Charity shows that a large percentage of men feel they do not receive enough information at the time of diagnosis. This problem could be resolved through the greater involvement of voluntary sector organisations that produce detailed information on prostate cancer, said Neate. This would require adequate resources, he added.

The charter is proof of how charities can work together to raise the profile of issues in Parliament, according to Mike Birtwistle, senior health policy specialist at AS Biss.

"The Prostate Cancer Charter for Action has proved that, by working together, charities can move an issue up the political agenda," he said.

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