Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer: Cancer unit battle was 'time well spent'
PUBLISHED: 09:48 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 22 February 2018
Time is a precious commodity for politicians and there never seems to be enough of it.
In between the debates, votes, assisting constituents at advice surgeries, and attending local events, MPs often use what little time they may have left to campaign on an issue close to their hearts.
For me, I do what I can to help cancer charities, having lost a friend to the disease. I am acutely aware how cruel and indiscriminate it can be.
Chances are, you or someone close to you has been affected by cancer; but with breakthroughs in research, drugs and treatment, more people are living longer than ever with cancer.
This knowledge gives me hope that one day we will see cancer beaten for good.
However, these drugs can be expensive for the NHS – sometimes prohibitively so – but the Government has invested £1.2 billion in the Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people.
Cancer survival rates are improving and, according to Cancer Research, have doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. I welcome progress but I want us to do more.
Perseverance is key and change can take time – often years – to come. In Parliament, I led debates and tabled questions on extending the HPV vaccination programme to men, which can help prevent a wide range of cancers.
Awareness and early diagnosis are crucial to improve survival rates.
Whenever I can, I support cancer charities in their work to raise awareness and encourage people to look out for the symptoms.
This includes dressing up for Breast Cancer Now’s Wear It Pink campaign, trekking across London in the dark with the Walk the Walk charity’s sponsored ‘Moonwalk’, pouring a cuppa for Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, or simply meeting with charity reps at Party Conference to discuss the latest progress or campaign.
While cancer is a challenge for the whole country, I have been working to make a difference locally too.
A priority for me for a long time has been the building of a permanent and purpose-built digital breast screening unit at Finchley Memorial hospital.
For years, I have lobbied local health leaders, NHS England, the Secretary of State for Health and many others to see this new unit built.
At times it felt out of reach – there was always one obstacle or another preventing progress.
But at the end of last month, I received a letter from NHS England confirming that funding has now been secured and building the new unit is underway. All being well, it will be open in June.
This will make a real difference to women locally and be a more comfortable experience than the old, dated mobile unit.
While some said I was wasting my time on the campaign, I think this has been time well spent.