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Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2010

I congratulate Wendy Watson on starting the helpline in 1996. I also congratulate the hon. Lady and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Mr McLoughlin) on the support that they have given it. I know that it has experienced difficulties in gaining funding from primary care trusts, with only 36 of the 152 PCTs providing it, but the cancer networks are working on an interim solution to fund the helpline through the transition period prior to the NHS commissioning board and GP commissioning coming online.

I thank the Minister, but what I am most concerned about is the fact that Wendy Watson is running the helpline on a shoestring from her home in Derbyshire. She is getting small grants from PCTs, but once PCTs are abolished, where will the money come from? Can the Minister commit to funding the national helpline, which is the only one of its kind, directly from the Department of Health?

I point out to the hon. Lady that with the new commissioning consortiums, those decisions will be made at a much more local level. Only 36 of 152 PCTs are currently contributing to the helpline, which is nonsense when one considers that they are being asked for only £422 each. It is right that such decisions should be made locally, particularly in view of the sort of emotional support that the helpline can give.