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Diagnostic Tests (Cancer)

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2010

16. How many diagnostic tests for cancer he expects to be carried out by the NHS in each of the next four years. (20944)

The Department collects waiting times and activity data on 15 key diagnostic tests, but these data do not include the reason for a diagnostic test, such as suspected cancer. The NHS carries out more than 40 million diagnostic tests per year. The cancer reform strategy review is looking at the scope to improve survival rates by increased use of some diagnostic tests.

I thank the Minister for that answer, although it was not quite as precise as I would have liked. How will those numbers be impacted by the Government’s decision to abandon the one-week guarantee for cancer tests and their decision not to performance-manage the abandonment of the 18-week diagnostic target?

I say in the politest way possible to the hon. Lady that we cannot abandon a target that has never been imposed in the first place. May I remind her that, as a sop to the Labour party conference more than a year ago, the former Prime Minister merely announced an aspiration? He never provided any funding or said where the funding should go, and he never provided any clinical evidence for the viability of the proposal. Saying that the Government have abandoned a target when it never existed is sheer poppycock.

The all-party cancer group’s report last year found that those with rarer cancers got a bit of a raw deal from the NHS when it came to access to treatment and drugs. How will the new cancer fund put right that wrong?

I am sure that my hon. Friend, through the tremendous work done by him and his colleagues on the all-party group, will appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s initiative—providing £50 million for the rest of this year and £200 million from next year for the cancer fund—is an important step forward in helping those who suffer from cancer. I am sure that my hon. Friend will also welcome the fact that work is ongoing on refining, following the review, the cancer reform strategy, and we are looking at the scope for improving survival rates by the increased use of diagnostic tests and at improving care across the board, so that we raise our standards to the highest in Europe rather than being the poor relation.