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Cancer: Health Services

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the extent to which commissioners have put in place systems to ensure that patients experience good continuity of care in relation to cancer services; (248450)

(2) how many and what proportion of commissioners of cancer services have established service level agreements with local mental health services for advanced psychological support services.

The information requested is not held centrally. It is for primary care trusts working in partnership with their strategic health authorities, local services and stakeholders to provide appropriate services for their local populations, including the commissioning of cancer services and psychological support for cancer patients.

Through the implementation of the “Cancer Reform Strategy”, the Department provides a range of support to help commissioners of cancer services to ensure that their services meet their populations’ needs. This includes the Cancer Commissioning Guidance, which sets out key issues and key questions that commissioners will want to take into consideration when assessing health needs, reviewing services, developing their contract service specifications and monitoring performance; and the Cancer Commissioning Toolkit, which provides an easily accessible one stop source of cancer information to provide answers to the key questions in the Cancer Commissioning Guidance.

The planned annual patient experience survey will provide us with information about how far patients are satisfied with the quality of the services being commissioned for them. Local patient experience surveys are already in operation in some cancer networks.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress the representative advisory group on cancer inequalities has made towards (a) researching proposals, (b) testing inequalities and (c) advising on the development of a wider policy; and when and how he plans to evaluate the National Cancer Equality Initiative. (248454)

As highlighted in the first annual report of the Cancer Reform Strategy (CRS), “Cancer Reform Strategy: Maintaining momentum, building for the future—first annual report”, published on 1 December 2008 (a copy of which has already been placed in the Library), we have set up the National Cancer Equality Initiative (NCEI) to take forward a series of actions to reduce inequalities in cancer care. An advisory group has been established, co-chaired by Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, and Joanne Rule, the former Chief Executive of Cancer Backup. The membership of the group comprises representatives of all six equality strands, plus representatives on deprivation, leading academics, professionals, and departmental officials on cancer, equality and human rights, and health inequalities.

The NCEI Advisory Group has already met three times, and has taken forward work on the following:

to establish a baseline, the NCEI has undertaken a good practice survey to identify current projects aiming to reduce inequalities in cancer care. The principles behind undertaking robust projects to reduce cancer inequalities, including examples from the survey, will be issued to the national health service later this year;

writing to the chairs of the other CRS initiatives to embed equality issues across the whole programme. Letters have already been sent to the chairs of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative and the National Cancer Intelligence Network, and future letters will be sent to the National Cancer Research Institute and the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative, and other major initiatives as appropriate;

working with Macmillan Cancer Support on their Human Rights programme of work, “Know Your Rights”; and

producing a newsletter, “We Can”, which was launched at the Britain Against Cancer Conference in December 2008.

The NCEI action plan for 2009-10 is currently being developed. The Cancer Programme Board has the responsibility for monitoring progress on all CRS initiatives, including the NCEI, and we are committed to publishing an annual report on progress.