As questions of finance continue to dominate this year, the cancer tsar has fallen out of the top five. However, Professor Richards has his hands full with implementing the cancer reform strategy, currently focusing on pilot schemes for early diagnosis and awareness, and an enhanced recovery programme.

He was caught up in the media circus surrounding the death from cancer of television star Jade Goody, yet he resisted a knee jerk recommendation to reduce the age for cervical screening, instead leading an evidence based review.

If the government pulls off an unlikely election win, Professor Richards will most likely be introducing the prime minister’s tough new target on providing all suspected cancer patients with diagnostic test results within one week by 2014. And the NHS Cancer Plan, 10 years old next year, will be ripe for change. But Professor Richards, in post since October 1999, shows no sign of flagging.