Charity aims to save extra 2,000 lives a year with cancer strategy

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A cancer charity is drawing up a strategy to tackle inequalities and improve outcomes for patients in Yorkshire.

The region is lagging behind most areas of England in terms of premature, preventable deaths from cancer, with Hull, Doncaster and Calderdale, doing particularly poorly.

Yorkshire Cancer Research has appointed seven new trustees to its board as it works on a new strategy to focus efforts on producing the best outcomes for people in Yorkshire.

The charity says more than 2,000 premature deaths could be avoided if the region matched the performance of the best local authority in England.

Chief executive officer Charles Rowett said their thoughts had been focussed by “shocking” statistics from Public Health England, which had shown up regional inequalities more clearly than ever before.

He said: “Of 150 local authorities in terms of premature deaths under the age of 75, Leeds comes 116th and Hull 145th.

“In Hull, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, there is a combination of social dependency, alcohol, smoking, obesity, poor education and environment as well as inequalities in accessing healthcare.

“Nationally the trend is improving considerably; Yorkshire is improving too, but nowhere near at the same rate.”

With the Government and national charities investing heavily in the south of England including a state-of-the-art biomedical research centre at London’s The Francis Crick Institute, Mr Rowett said there was a danger Yorkshire’s priorities could be sidelined.

The charity is now focussing its attention on work that is relevant to Yorkshire, and with Leeds University and other partners aims to create a centre for early phase clinical trials, which would give patients in the region a chance to access new treatments which they might not otherwise be offered.

They aim to increase its £5m income to £20m – an aim which will require far more public support and greater awareness of their work.

One of the projects the charity is currently investing in is a £750,000 five-year project led by Hull GP and Professor of Primary Care at Hull York Medical School, Una Macleod, which has been looking at how people interpret symptoms of cancer in the lungs, head and neck and the factors that make them go and see their doctor.

Mr Rowett said: “We are the only charity that supports long-term research in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Bradford and York. We already have a huge commitment but probably what we haven’t done enough is look at work like Una Macleod’s and say rather than focus on the national and international agenda, how do we make it more relevant to our region.

“You can’t cure cancer with £5m but if you channel that to public benefit in Yorkshire you can do an awful lot of good.”

The new trustees include Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Margaret Kitching, director of nursing and quality at NHS England’s South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw team and entrepreneur Zulfi Hussain.