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Pancreatic Cancer

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2012

We are providing more than £450 million during this spending review period to help diagnose cancer earlier. In January, we are planning to pilot a general symptom awareness campaign that will be relevant to a range of cancers, including pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, however, pancreatic cancer is often very difficult to detect in the early stages.

Has the Minister considered the early diagnosis summit report from Pancreatic Cancer UK highlighting that currently half of diagnoses are emergency diagnoses? It also makes strong cases for new referral pathways, risk assessment tools, direct access for GPs to investigative and diagnostic tools and the development of a National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence quality standard for pancreatic cancer. Can we expect progress on any of these before the 2013 cancer awareness campaign?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his work. I am aware of the campaign that he has been running effectively in his constituency, based on the experiences of one of his constituents. As I say, however, and as he will know, pancreatic cancer is, by its nature, a particularly difficult cancer to diagnose early. We will all, of course, remember the untimely death of Sir Stuart Bell. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed only very shortly before his death. I wish that were not as common as it is, but we are doing everything we can to improve screening. I thank the hon. Gentleman again for his campaign, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss it further.

Cancer networks have played a crucial role in improving patient care, including by earlier diagnosis. The former Health Secretary promised this House that their funding would be guaranteed in 2011, but the South East London Cancer Network now says its budget was cut by 40% between 2009 and 2011. This year, it has been slashed by a further 55% and its staff have been cut from 15 to eight. Will the Minister now admit that her Government have cut funding for vital front-line cancer experts and have broken their explicit promises on cancer care?

My information is that any 40% reduction is a result of cuts in administration—and that, if I may say so, seems the right way to go about things. This Government are determined to make sure that when we make cuts of that nature, they are not actually cuts—[Interruption.] It is about moving money around so that it goes to front-line services. This Government are determined to reduce bureaucracy in the NHS and to make sure that patients get the benefit of our spending—unlike under the last Administration, who had it round the other way.