“Our children and young people’s cancer plan is ambitious but it should be because children and young people diagnosed with cancer deserve the same chances as everybody else”

Helen Gravestock, Director of Policy, Influencing and Voice at Young Lives vs Cancer on why a bespoke Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan is so needed. 

You might have seen myself, and others from Young Lives vs Cancer or partner charities, asking UK governments “but what about children and young people with cancer?” when they talk about what their plans are for supporting people with cancer. Well, there’s a very good reason for this, and even more so right now… 

It was only back in February 2022 that the UK government declared a “national war on cancer”, announcing they would deliver a 10 Year Cancer Plan. But just one year later, this was scrapped and is being replaced by a “Major Conditions Strategy” – which includes cancer and mental health, alongside a list of other, largely adult focused, diseases and conditions. It was hugely disappointing to see the promised, and much needed, dedicated 10 Year Cancer Plan dropped.  

In their latest announcement in August, the UK government published its interim report on the Major Conditions Strategy, which sets out the framework the strategy is set to follow to address the health challenges and needs of patients in England.   

Whilst it is welcome that this interim report acknowledged that children and young people with cancer have specific needs, there’s still a long way to go to meet them. We strongly feel the report’s branding of cancer in children and young people as “rare” is misleading and unhelpful, in particular when developing strategies and plans for all patients and across multiple conditions.  

Every year in the UK over 4,000 children and young people under 25 are diagnosed with cancer, and we know having cancer at this age is different from older adults. Not only it is biologically different, but it comes at a key developmental stage in life, often has significant long-term effects from treatment, not to mention the emotional and mental health impacts.  

Any national strategy to improve outcomes and experiences for children and young people with cancer must fully consider the unique needs and challenges they face, and have clear steps to address them. In turn, it needs to be ambitious, long-term, fully-funded and grounded in evidence from the cancer community and patients’ own experiences. 

This is why Young Lives vs Cancer and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) believe that children and young people with cancer need their own tailored plan – to ensure that the unique needs of young cancer patients are recognised, understood, and addressed. 

We’ve put together a  Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan , and it covers the full breadth of priorities of young cancer patients, from diagnosis and treatment, to supporting psychosocial needs and the best possible survivorship. We want to work with the Department of Health and Social Care, and the children and young people’s cancer sector as a whole, to put it in place and improve experiences and outcomes for every child and young person with cancer. 

We can’t do this on our own, we need our colleagues in the charity sector, as well as the government to work together. Our Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan is ambitious, but it should be, because children and young people diagnosed with cancer deserve the same chances as everybody else. 

Young Lives vs Cancer needs to meet with those who have the power to implement this plan for children and young people across the UK. Act now to email your representative in parliament using our simple form so that we can talk to them about the unique needs of children and young people with cancer.

Will you act now and email your parliamentary representatives to meet with Young Lives vs Cancer?

Author: Alison

Posted on Friday 11 August 2023

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