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Integrated Cancer Services

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2011

“Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer” set out our plans to support GP consortia to commission high-quality cancer services that deliver improved outcomes. The strategy confirmed the importance of cancer networks and we have recently confirmed that the NHS commissioning board will continue to support strengthened cancer networks.

I thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for extending the guaranteed funding for cancer networks to 2013 and their commitment to support them thereafter, because the cancer networks’ expertise will be much valued by consortia. How will the authorisation process for GP consortia ensure effective commissioning of those cancer services that span consortia boundaries, such as radiotherapy?

What we are doing at the moment with the pause is making sure that we revise the proposals in ways that ensure that we deliver the outcomes set out in the White Paper last year. One of the things we said in the White Paper, and which the Bill currently provides for, is that GP commissioning consortia can collaborate where they need to commission for larger populations.

On GP commissioning consortia, one of the concerns that the Minister will have heard during his pause is the public’s concern about the possible role of the private sector in GP commissioning. Although we all agree that the private sector has always had, and will always have, a role in the NHS, does the Southern Cross Healthcare disaster not show the dangers of leaving health and social care to the short-term decisions of private equity bosses?

I am grateful for that advice, Mr Speaker. The hon. Lady’s remark was one that she might have made from the Back Benches when the Labour party was in power, but which it never listened to when in government. On GP commissioning consortia, we believe that it is important that consortia have access to the right expertise to be able to commission effectively both clinicians from other parts of the health economy and other expertise from the voluntary sector. That should be possible and we think that it is how we can improve commissioning in the NHS.

Will commissioners be able to approach specialist integrated cancer services, such as the Penny Brohn cancer clinic in Bristol, and will that clinic and others be represented on health and wellbeing boards in future?

The membership of health and wellbeing boards will be a matter for the local authorities that will set them up. The Bill provides de minimis provisions for involving local councillors, representatives from commissioning consortia, public health directors, social services and children’s services, but I am sure that many of the pilots that are currently going on across the country are looking at innovative ways of involving others as well.