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Cancer Mortality Rates

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2011

“Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer” sets out our plans to reduce mortality rates by tackling preventable incidence and improving survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer. As we make it clear in the strategy, we cannot deliver the reductions without a focus on poorer socio-economic groups.

I wonder whether the Minister has seen the statistic that 70% of people with cancer can lose half their income during the course of their disease. Obviously, those who are least well-off will be hit the most. Would it not be best therefore for the Government to heed the warning from Macmillan Cancer Support and others that the Welfare Reform Bill proposal to end abruptly the eligibility for employment support allowance after 12 months is both unfair and arbitrary, particularly for those who have the fewest resources, as they try to recover from cancer?

That sounds more like a Second Reading speech on the Welfare Reform Bill than a Health oral question; but of course, we listen carefully to what Macmillan says. We work closely with it on many aspects of our cancer strategy, but it is also important to bear in mind that we need to ensure that people who are suffering from cancer receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely fashion, and we are working on that with colleagues from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Speaker, you might remember in the last Parliament that a young constituent of mine—a five-year-old boy—had neuroblastoma and that his likelihood of surviving that rare cancer was very small, but thanks to the intervention of Ann Keen in the last Parliament and working together, I am pleased to say that it has just been announced that that little boy is clear of cancer. Will the Minister comment on whether, as I hope, it will not be so difficult in this Parliament to get treatment for such cases?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and I share his satisfaction and pleasure at the successful treatment that his constituent’s son received. Certainly, on cancer survival rates and cancer outcomes, we need to make sure not just that we are delivering for the most typical cancers, but that we have good processes that ensure early diagnosis of all cancers.