Unfortunately the campaign has closed following the loss of the parliamentary seat of the enabling Member of Parliament and the resignation of the chairman.

History of OCWC

The campaign, funded by Covidien and co-ordinated by PB Political Consulting, aimed to raise awareness of Barrett's Oesophagus and its link with oesophageal adenocarcinoma through bringing it to the attention of MPs.

"To provide a medium through which parliamentarians, charities, industry and those affected by oesophageal cancer both directly and indirectly can discuss the current provision of the condition which claims around 8,000 lives in the UK every year; press for the Public Health England to continue the roll out of the Be Clear on Cancer oesophago-gastric campaign nationally, promote public understanding and advocate for simple timely interventions to be implemented as a standard which are met across the NHS."

As a precursor, Mike Thornton, MP for Eastleigh, posted a question for Prime Minister's Questions on 6th March 2014:
"Last year, I met the surgeon, Tim Underwood, who leads the outstanding oesophageal cancer team at Southampton general hospital. He explained that oesophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the west but also one of the hardest to treat. Surgery is gruelling and incredibly painful. Many people are unaware that persistent heartburn and difficulties swallowing can be symptoms of oesophageal cancer. Will my right hon. Friend commit to raising much-needed awareness of this terrible disease and ensure that the NHS has the resources to diagnose it earlier?"
Engendering this response from David Cameron:
"My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of how we increase awareness of cancer, because that has an important effect in terms of early diagnosis. NHS England is currently running a pilot in the north-east and north Cumbria to raise awareness about oesophageal and stomach cancers, as part of its Be Clear on Cancer campaign, and we are committing more than £450 million of additional funding to support this early diagnosis. The absolute key is making sure that more people have their cancer discovered from trips to the GP and from their own inspections and self-awareness, rather than finding out these things in an emergency, often when it is too late."

On Monday 12th May 2014, the parliamentary campaign was officially launched at a dinner at Westminster attended by 4 MPs, consultants, surgeons and charity chairmen hosted by Mike Thornton.

Mike Thornton also tabled an Early Day Motion on the subject. Early Day Motions are not always debated but bring issues to the attention of MPs who may sign up to demonstrate their support of the topic.

By 7 January 2015, his EDM (below) had attracted 42 signayures from MPs. 

"That this House notes that the UK has the highest incidence of oesophageal adenocarcinoma in the world and that incidence is rising; further notes that there are over 8,000 people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer every year in the UK; acknowledges that the survival rate for oesophageal cancer is one of the worst of any cancer, with only 15 per cent survival after five years; further notes that diagnosis for the condition Barrett's oesophagus which can lead to oesophageal cancer is low and that public awareness of the significance of persistent heartburn as a risk factor is very low; welcomes the work of the Oesophageal Cancer Westminster Campaign, a campaign group of patient groups, clinical experts, industry and bereaved families; further welcomes the national Be Clear on Cancer campaign on oesophageal cancer; and calls for the Government and the Department of Health to regard the diagnosis and treatment of Barrett's oesophagus and oesophageal cancer as a national priority to save lives."

On Monday 13th October 2014, a mass lobby and reception on the terraces of the Houses of Parliament was attended by 180 people - including BW members - and a pledge to raise awareness of Oesophageal Cancer was signed by 19 MPs - including Caroline Nokes (MP for Romsey and Southampton North) pictured right.

20 January 2015 saw the first OCWC AGM in Portcullis House.

Tim Underwood was elected chairman with the desire to meet three times a year with prominent speakers or VIP guests.

Mike Weatherley, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, and cancer survivor, secured an adjournment debate on oesophageal cancer which took place on Monday 23rd February, 2015.

In the debate Mike described his personal fight against oesophageal cancer suggesting 7 improvement steps for the NHS. The two principle outcomes that Mike is hoping to achieve are:

  • Awareness of oesophageal cancer will be increased
  • A commitment to additional resources, chiefly in order to fund a quicker, more efficient diagnostic procedure.

Mike, who was first elected to Parliament in 2010, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2012 and underwent surgery to have his entire oesophagus (and part of his stomach) removed. Following months of intense treatment after the operation, Mike’s cancer went into full remission (tests and scans thankfully showing no current signs of remaining disease).

Commenting, Mike said: “My father said to me that being born in the UK is like winning the lottery of life. He was completely right and I am alive today because of our wonderful NHS. I wanted to have this debate in Parliament to highlight the devastating impact that oesophageal cancer has on people across the country, but also to demonstrate as living proof that the healthcare in this country is worth every penny.”

Mike added: “While the NHS does a fantastic job treating cancer patients, more can be done to improve the services that are available. I have seven improvements that I am recommending to the Department for Health.”

The text of Mike's speech is attached below.

The Hansard report may be read by clicking on this link.

Chris Robinson,
22 Aug 2014, 02:36
Chris Robinson,
23 Feb 2015, 03:19