Minutes of the APPG meeting of 11th March, 8.30am, with Professor Dame Sally Powell
Members in Attendance:
Eric Ollerenshaw MP (Chair)
Nic Dakin MP
Stuart Anfrew MP
Mark Durkan MP
Pauline Latham MP
External stakeholders present:
Professor Nigel Heaton, Kings College Hospital; Dr Andrew Hart, President of the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (PanSoc); John Lancaster, Patient representative on NHS England’s HPB Clinical Reference Group; Maggie Blanks, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund; Ali Stunt, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action; Clara Mackay, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK; David Park, Head of Campaigns and Policy, Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Summary of meeting:
The APPG was pleased to welcome Professor Dame Sally Powell, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), to answer questions from APPG members about research into pancreatic cancer. The Chair explained that the CMO had previously met with APPG Chair, Eric Ollerenshaw, and Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP, following the APPG’s research report published in October 2014. At that meeting the CMO agreed to attend a full meeting of the APPG so that more Members, and interested members of the public, could ask further questions about what more needed to be done to increase the amount of research into pancreatic cancer.
The Chair thanked Dame Sally for giving up her time to speak to the Group and asked her to give a brief introduction.
The CMO introduced herself and described her background and current role and how it related to research, most notably by leading on the National Institute for Health Research, which works alongside other research funders to deliver clinical trials through the NHS. As a doctor herself, Dame Sally said she understood the need for earlier diagnosis of the disease and was worried by the increase in incidence. Commenting on the APPG report, she noted that Department of Health/NIHR funding had increased from the £0.7m cited in the report, to £1.1m in 2013/14. The NIHR research unit was now recruiting to 16 pancreatic cancer research trials and another 4 were in a start up phase.
Issues raised by Members and other attendees over the next hour included the need for more research into early diagnosis; a request for a breakdown of the work of the Liverpool Pancreas Biomedical Research Centre; the need to focus on prevention issues such as smoking and obesity; the need for a strategic approach to commissioning and coordinating pancreatic cancer research; where cancer research sits as a whole when viewed against other government health priorities, such as dementia; the imperative to find out why they are variations in diagnosis and treatment outcomes around the country; the need to ensure pancreatic cancer forms a part of professional medical training programmes; and excess treatment costs due to research.
There were particularly detailed discussions about why more research projects were not being funded. The CMO had indicated that for more funding into pancreatic cancer, more good quality applications were needed from researchers. However, Maggie Blanks, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, noted that PCRF had received a record number of applications for funding that year and that there were now lots of good quality research applications being made. The CMO talked of the need to grow the size of the pancreatic research community so more applications came through. Cancer Research UK had set out in their new research strategy how they planned to increase funding into cancers of unmet need, including pancreatic cancer.
The Chair thanked Dame Sally again for her time and noted that the Group would continue to press Ministers and officials for improvements to pancreatic cancer outcomes.
The meeting concluded at 9.35am.