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Cancer Treatment (Waiting Times)

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2010

10. What assessment his Department has made of the effect on cancer patients of changes to the maximum waiting period for cancer treatment. (20938)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, because it allows me to make it absolutely clear that the Government have not changed the waiting times standards for cancer services. The revision to the NHS operating framework for this year confirmed that the NHS is expected to continue to ensure that people with suspected cancers are seen within the agreed waiting times standards.

I thank the Minister for his response. I am sure that he agrees with me that the policy brought in by the previous Government to ensure guaranteed minimum waiting times for cancer patients made great strides forward, not only for patients but for their families. May I urge him to ensure that this is not changed by any Government policy changes and that guaranteed minimum waiting times remain at the forefront of treatment for cancer patients?

I am grateful for the question. The answer, of course, is yes, we are determined to maintain these targets because we believe they make a difference.

Will the Minister ensure that patients who currently do not have access to a clinical nurse specialist will have such access? Research suggests that it considerably improves experiences and outputs.

The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to ensure that we invest in cancer specialists, and in the past six months the coalition Government have set out a number of steps that we will take, and are taking now, to improve cancer survival rates and cancer services. Raising awareness of signs and symptoms, new screening methods for bowel cancer and improving the number of specialist staff are just some of the things into which the Government have already started putting additional resources, in order to make a difference.