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Cancer Survival Rates

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2010

6. What assessment he has made of the likely effect on cancer survival rates of the implementation of his proposed reforms of the NHS. (20934)

Our health spending now matches European levels, but our cancer survival rates do not match European levels. If we brought survival rates up to the best in Europe, we could save up to 10,000 lives a year. Our updated cancer strategy will set out how our NHS reforms will improve cancer survival rates.

Does my hon. Friend agree that local charity groups, such as York Against Cancer in my constituency, play a vital role in the fight against that disease? Can he assure me that the Government will continue to support and work with the voluntary sector to provide the very best cancer care?

The Government certainly work closely with the voluntary sector in many ways to promote and develop our approach to cancer services. We value the work of organisations such as York Against Cancer because of the support that they provide through information and support for people diagnosed with cancer and their families. It is very important that we continue to support such activities.

Does the Minister agree that cancer survival outcomes are very closely linked to poverty and inequality? Although I concede that inequality widened under the previous Government, how can the present Government hope to bear down on poverty and inequality in the context of an overall policy framework that envisages a steep rise in unemployment, with all the poor health outcomes associated with that, and a commitment to protecting health spending, which is unravelling by the day?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question, and particularly her acknowledgement of the previous Government’s failure to close the health inequality gap. The Office for Budget Responsibility identified that there will be growth in employment during the spending review period, and this Government are determined to make sure that we see that growth take place. When it comes to cancer survival, what we need to do most, and most importantly, is make sure that people are aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, because if they are, they present earlier, they get a diagnosis earlier and their survival chances are greatly improved.