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Cancer Waiting Times

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 11 June 2013

Cancer waiting time standards set out a maximum two-month wait from urgent GP referral for suspected cancer, through to diagnosis, to the first definitive treatment. Quarterly performance in the past 12 months has consistently exceeded the performance measure of 85%; indeed, the current data show that 86.3% of patients were treated within this time frame.

I am a firm believer in bringing cancer care closer to people’s homes. My constituents have to travel thousands of miles during the course of their radiotherapy treatments. Will the Minister support my campaign for a satellite radiotherapy unit to be based at Lister hospital in Stevenage?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s campaign, which he has been running for some time, and to all the great work that he does for Lister hospital. I am slightly worried that if I give him any support it might be the kiss of death for his campaign, but I wish him all the very best and all power to his elbow.

One group of people greatly affected by a cancer diagnosis are the carers who suddenly find themselves to be carers of people with cancer. Yesterday I met some people who are carers of people with cancer, and they told me that they did not get the information, advice and support that they needed to tackle that important caring role. Does the Minister agree that it is about time that we recognised those carers and started to give them the advice and support that they need because they suffer financial loss, hardship, loss of career and impacts on their own health?

I very much do agree. That is why I am so pleased that the Care Bill that is making its way through both Houses has special provision for people who are caring for others with cancer in the way that the hon. Lady describes.

Last week Monitor, the regulator for foundation trust hospitals, said that cancer patients are now waiting longer for treatment and diagnosis because of the A and E crisis in hospitals. Official NHS figures published that same day show that the number of patients waiting over three months for cancer, heart disease and other life-saving tests has more than doubled compared with only last year. Is it not obviously the case that this Health Secretary’s failure to cut the spin and get a grip on the A and E crisis is now seriously damaging patient care?

That was a very interesting speech but I am afraid that I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s analysis at all. All cancer waiting time standards are being met, with over 28,000 patients being treated for cancer following a GP making an urgent referral for a suspected cancer. We have already heard about the action that this Government are taking to address the situation in accident and emergency; it was very well explained in last week’s debate