Campaign: Prostate cancer charter wins MP support - Public Affairs

Campaign: Prostate Cancer Charter for Action Client: GUS Charitable Trust PR team: AS Biss & Co Timescale: Ongoing from January 2003 Budget: £225,000

At the end of 2002, GUS Charitable Trust - the body that channels donations from the group's retailers Argos, Burberry and Homebase and its data specialist Experian - brought together organisations involved with prostate cancer to establish the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action. This would enable the trust to speak to the Government with a single, representative voice. It hired AS Biss & Co to harness the interests and expertise of patient groups, cancer charities and healthcare professionals.

Objectives

To increase political focus on prostate cancer and position the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action as a respected and expert campaigning group among opinion-former audiences.

To achieve action on the charter's five main arguments, which called for improved transparency, public awareness, patient care, resources and partnership. To establish an advisory group on prostate cancer, bringing together experts in the field.

Strategy and Plan

The charter launched in January 2003 with an event at the Houses of Parliament.

This was attended by then public health minister Hazel Blears, along with representatives from the main opposition parties.

AS Biss then instigated a lobbying campaign to increase political support for the charter and its objectives in an effort to apply pressure on the Department of Health (DoH).

Activities included behind-the-scenes liaison with the DoH and other stakeholders, such as the charter's 22 signatories and specialist clinicians.

In addition, the team met and briefed MPs and encouraged them to raise the political profile of prostate cancer through parliamentary debates, written questions and Early Day Motions.

Measurement and Evaluation

The charter has gained the support of more than 200 MPs, including Conservative health spokesman John Baron and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Lord Clement-Jones.

The level of parliamentary activity on prostate cancer in 2003/04 included debates in the Commons and Lords, five Early Day Motions - gaining 432 signatures - and 34 written questions.

The charter has received coverage in national and specialist media, including the Health Service Journal.

Results

The DoH has established the Prostate Cancer Advisory Group, comprising representatives from the voluntary sector and professionals, to help advise on, and develop, future policy.

The body received praise from Secretary of State for Health John Reid and has been replicated with groups focused on bowel and lung cancer. The charter has also secured £100,000 from the DoH to help establish a National Prostate Cancer website, as well as a provisional agreement for the department to continue its annual £4.2m of funding for research.

Dr Howard Stoate, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Men's Health, says that as a Labour MP and practising GP, one of his frustrations is witnessing charities fail to build on good work through collaboration.

'The charter has been exceptional because all the charities involved have worked closely together, campaigning in a professional and compelling way, which has grabbed attention and built a constituency of support for the cause,' he says.

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