Our cancer outcomes strategy sets out the ambition to save an additional 5,000 lives every year by 2014-15, which would halve the gap in survival rates between England and the best in Europe. Looking further ahead, our aim is to have survival rates among the best. To realise our goal, we are acting across a broad front: raising public awareness of the symptoms of cancers and supporting GPs; extending screening and the introduction of flexible sigmoidoscopy; improving access to diagnostic tests; expanding radiotherapy; reducing variation in treatment; and improving quality of life for cancer survivors.
The important point about the extension of any screening programme is that it is based on evidence. The most recent review of cervical smear and screening campaigns took place in 2009, and on the basis of all the available evidence at the time the Government’s advisory committee on cervical screening concluded that it would do more harm than good to extend screening below that age, but it is a standing item on the committee’s agenda. It looks at any new evidence and will continue to do so.
I am afraid that I did not entirely hear the hon. Gentleman’s question, but it was about research, and the Government are certainly committed to substantial investment, working with partners to ensure that we have among the best research in the world so that we have access to treatments at the earliest opportunity.
Does the Minister agree with the recent report by the all-party group on cancer, which found that, if we are to drive improvements and outcomes consistently throughout the NHS, both the one-year and five-year cancer survival rates should be included in the NHS outcomes framework and in the commissioning outcomes framework?
My hon. Friend, who chairs that all-party group, met me recently to make those points, and as a consequence of that meeting and his excellent note of it I undertook to write to him in greater detail. He will understand that some of those issues go to the heart of data collection and to the quality of the data currently available throughout all cancer sites, and that is the reason why we may not be able to do quite what he wants at the pace that he wants.
On the day that the Government have confirmed that from October there will be a complete ban on age discrimination within the national health service, except when it can be objectively justified, the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that the evidence used to determine who is eligible for a screening programme is the basis on which recommendations are made to the Government, and they will be extended in future.