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Cancer Care

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2012

Through the national cancer equality initiative, we are working in partnership with patients, professionals, academics and the voluntary sector to take forward a range of projects, such as working with Macmillan Cancer Support and Age UK to tackle the under-treatment of older people, our launching of the “Cancer does not discriminate” campaign with black and minority ethnic groups and our funding of work to target lesbian and bisexual women with cervical screening.

I am sure the Secretary of State and the Minister will acknowledge that cancer mortality rates are higher in my constituency than in his. Can he therefore justify to my constituents why Barnsley primary care trust is being forced to spend £17 million not on addressing issues surrounding the inequality of cancer care but on delivering an undemocratic, unwanted and unnecessary top-down reorganisation of our NHS?

I say two things to the hon. Gentleman: first, that the reforms will actually release resources from back-office costs and put them back into the front line, which I hope all hon. Members want to happen; and, secondly, that when it comes to our cancer strategy, we committed additional resources in the spending review to invest in cancer services. If he wants to raise specific issues with me, I will be only too happy to address them.

The Minister will fully understand the importance of early diagnosis in cancer outcomes and tackling cancer inequalities. May I therefore urge the Government to include the one-year outcome measure in the commissioning outcome framework, so that we can measure the performance of clinical commissioning groups?

My hon. Friend, who chairs the all-party group on cancer, has been pursuing that issue vigorously. We certainly need to ensure that we use both proxy and other performance indicators on cancer outcomes, and I will want to continue examining whether that indicator is the most appropriate one to tell us what we need to know about improvements in cancer outcomes performance.

The hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) is right that early diagnosis is crucial for treating cancer, and it is often very worrying for people to wait for their test results. Under the current Government, waiting times for diagnostic tests have soared. Will the Minister confirm that the number of patients waiting more than six weeks for their test has more than doubled since May 2010, the number waiting more than 13 weeks has more than trebled and the average wait is up, too, by 28%? It is a simple question, so will he give us a simple answer—yes or no?

It was a somewhat longer question than that, so I hope the hon. Lady will let me go a little further than a yes or no. I tell her that at the end of December 2011 only 1.4% of patients were waiting six weeks or longer for one of the 15 key diagnostic tests, and that just five NHS trusts are responsible for about 30% of all waits of six weeks or longer. We are working specifically with those five trusts to bear down on those waits and ensure that people do not have to wait so long. Of course she is right to make her point about waits, which is why the Government are focused on the issue and have sent in the additional support needed to ensure that trusts deal with it.