Elections 2021: What the results mean for people with cancer

Cancer
Polling station, Dundee

On Thursday 6 May, voters turned out to decide who would form the next Scottish and Welsh Governments, as well as who would take on the mayoralties of 8 city regions in England. Voters in England also voted in 143 local council elections.

It was a big day for many reasons – determining who’s responsible for the NHS in Scotland and Wales, including COVID-19 recovery plans, and setting the direction of travel for the next 5 years in each nation or region.

Before the elections, we sought to influence the political party manifestos to include key commitments on cancer.

And during the election period, our Campaigns Ambassadors and e-campaigners sent thousands of messages to candidates, explaining why #CancerWontWait, particularly as health services recover from the pandemic and transform to improve outcomes.

So, with the results now clear, what do these elections mean for people affected by cancer?

Scotland

With a record turnout, the Scottish Parliament elections saw the SNP again returned as the biggest party. While they were just short of a majority, it’s expected that the party will govern with support from the Scottish Greens.

In the run-up to the election, the SNP launched their manifesto with some key promises on health and cancer, including:

  • Increasing funding by £2.5bn in the NHS
  • Implementing the NHS recovery plan
  • Introducing a law to restrict price promotions on food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt
  • Publishing a new tobacco control strategy
  • Setting up fast track cancer diagnostic centres in every health board and investing an additional £20m in the Detect Cancer Early programme

We saw similar commitments in the manifestos of other political parties, meaning that there should be cross-party support for many of the measures needed to improve outcomes for people with cancer.

The election resulted in around a third of all MSPs being new to the Scottish Parliament (42 out of 129). Over the coming weeks, we’ll be speaking to as many as we can to continue building support for action on cancer.

One of our top priorities for the new Scottish Government will be the new legislation to restrict price promotions on the unhealthiest food and drink, to help tackle obesity and prevent cancer. This is something we have campaigned for some time through our Scale Down Cancer campaign and we are calling for this to be included in the Programme for Government, expected soon.

Wales

Welsh Labour matched their previous best result at a Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru election, winning exactly half of the 60 available seats. With this outcome, it is likely that Labour will continue to govern in Wales, seeking support from other parties on a case-by-case basis.

While the Welsh Labour manifesto did not contain any specific cancer commitments, there were several promises on the NHS, which we’re keen to see enacted:

Providing funding to the NHS for recovery from the pandemic, including on delayed treatments.

Training 12,000 new doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and psychologists.

Changing the way NHS Wales is government by introducing a new National Executive.

Before the election, the Welsh Labour Government published its Quality Statement on Cancer to replace the Cancer Delivery Plan 2016. At the time, we opposed this – as did many other cancer charities – for lacking detail and ambition.

Our priority for the new Welsh Government will be to change its approach and develop a comprehensive cancer plan that will improve cancer survival in Wales. As this was a promise in both the Welsh Conservative and Plaid Cymru manifestos, we’ll be seeking support from across the Senedd, including the 18 new MSs.

England – Metro Mayors

Alongside parliamentary by-elections and local elections, votes were cast to decide the new Metro Mayors for England’s 8 city regions – Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Greater Manchester, London, Liverpool, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire.

The final results led to 6 Labour Mayors – including 2 changes from the Conservatives and the first Mayor of West Yorkshire – and 2 Conservative Mayors.

The remit of each Metro Mayor is different, with only one, Greater Manchester, having direct responsibility for health and social care in their region. While that means they might have less direct opportunity to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival, they are still important players.

They are leaders in their community and hold a lot of influence, both locally and with national bodies. As a result, they can be important champions for people affected by cancer.

One of the key themes found across a number of the mayoral races was the need to tackle health inequalities. This is vital – with figures suggesting that there are around 20,000 extra cancer cases each year in more deprived areas of the UK and that rates of smoking related cancers 3 times higher for the most deprived populations compared to the least deprived.

Metro Mayors can play a key role in this space. We will look to work with each of them on this shared objective during their terms in office.

The elections also gives us an excellent chance to grow our Councillor Cancer Champions network, inviting new and returning councillors to take local action on cancer.

What’s next?

For us, the election results are the starting gun for our work to begin. With new governments and mayors in place, we will campaign tirelessly to bring about the changes urgently needed by people affected by cancer.

But we cannot do it without your help. People like you helped make cancer a key issue during the election. Now we need to keep up the momentum to ensure change happens.

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