Voluntary sector - Macmillan lobbies for better cancer care

Charity Macmillan Cancer Support wanted to ensure support for cancer patients remained high on the political agenda.

Macmillan: lobbies for better cancer care
Macmillan: lobbies for better cancer care
Vote Cancer Support?
Client Macmillan Cancer Support?
PR team In-house?
Timescale May 2010-June 2011?
Budget £10,000

Charity Macmillan Cancer Support wanted to ensure support for cancer patients remained high on the political agenda following the change of government in May 2010. After a consultation with stakeholders and its own staff, the charity pinpointed three policy objectives based on the likelihood of success and the improvements they could bring to those affected by cancer. A dedicated campaign team was formed from departments across the charity and led by its public affairs team.


  • To ensure every patient is offered a post-treatment assessment and care plan
  • To gain better access to clinically effective drugs for those with rarer cancers
  • Improved care, so those with cancer nearing the end of their life have round-the-clock access to a community nurse to enable them to die at home if they wish to.

Research presented to politicians, the media and the public through face-to-face meetings, press releases and online promotion included the latest charity figures showing that just 11 per cent of cancer survivors have a written care plan.
A Vote Cancer Support e-campaign was created urging people and politicians to sign up to the three objectives.
One-to-one meetings with ministers and MPs, including Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, cancer minister Paul Burstow and shadow health secretary John Healey, took place. Burstow took part in a web chat with Macmillan supporters in January 2011.
Key to media coverage was presenting real-life case studies of people affected by cancer. This included the production of a short promotional film called End of life shouldn't mean end of choice.
The bulk of the budget was spent on a report called Always There, focusing on the palliative care postcode lottery patients faced.

From May 2010 to April 2011 there were 95 parliamentary mentions of cancer treatment assessment and care plans, access to drug treatment and community nurses for palliative care in patients' homes. The bulk of these were parliamentary questions. A poll of MPs carried out in November 2010 found 77 per cent were aware of the charity's campaign. In total the campaign generated 272 pieces of media coverage. Five cabinet members and 163 new MPs were among those to sign the charity's Vote Cancer Support pledge. The online database of supporters increased by 43 per cent during the campaign, from 9,160 to 13,135.

The Government's January 2011 cancer strategy pledged to give every cancer patient and survivor a personalised care plan. In October 2010, the Government launched an interim £50m cancer drugs fund to improve access to cancer drugs. In April 2011 this became a £200m annual fund. The NHS Operating Framework for England for 2011/12 urged health commissioners to ensure community nursing services are available 24/7 for cancer patients near the end of their life. The campaign was highly commended at the PRWeek Awards 2011.

Macmillan got it right by choosing campaign aims that would make a difference and, crucially, were winnable. It was also able to offer substantial savings for the Government - the central argument of the entire election campaign.

The numbers speak for themselves: who wouldn't be happy with 272 articles and 95 mentions in Parliament, for a £10,000 budget? And of course it delivered on all three of its campaign aims.

The integrated approach - forming a dedicated campaign team from departments across the charity - was a smart move. Integration is sometimes lacking in in-house campaigns and is vital for maintaining message discipline.

It used social and digital media effectively too. Bite-size videos of cancer sufferers are powerful and people are far more likely to watch a video than read an e-newsletter. Perhaps Macmillan could have used Twitter a little more effectively. A widely used hashtag has worked well for other campaigns.

In conclusion, a well-executed campaign with impressive results.

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