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Countess of Chester Hospital (Scans)

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2015

I am delighted to report to the House that the number of CT scans performed at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust increased by 67% between 2010 and 2014. In December 2014, only 0.6% of patients waited more than six weeks from referral to test at the trust—that is rather better than the figure we inherited in 2010 of 4.9%, and I hope that the Opposition will welcome it.

I welcome those fantastic figures at the Countess of Chester hospital. Will the Minister confirm that early and accurate diagnosis is crucial for dealing with many conditions, and that we are seeing the results of that in improved survival rates for conditions such as cancer?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that diagnostics play a key role in our drive to improve cancer survival, which is why we have committed £750 million to deliver our cancer strategy, including £450 million to achieve better diagnosis of cancer, and better awareness and access to diagnostic tests. Projections show that that is working; we are on track to see 12,000 more cancer patients a year surviving for at least five years in 2015, which is more than double the target of 5,000 we set ourselves in January 2011. I hope that the Labour party will agree that these are real benefits for cancer patients in the NHS today.

Cancer scanning services in Cheshire and Staffordshire have recently been subjected to a competitive tendering process, and the contract was awarded to Alliance Medical, despite its bid being £7 million more expensive than the NHS bid. Can the Secretary of State explain why the more expensive private sector bid was chosen over the better value NHS bid to provide these services? Will he commit to investigating the bidding process to ensure that the tender was conducted fairly? [Interruption.] He is chuntering from a sedentary position, but will he today confirm, because this is a matter of profound public interest, that no contact of any sort took place between his Department and the board of Alliance Medical with regard to this decision, including at any point with the current board member, the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind)?

Order. That was a considerable essay to which a pithy but comprehensive response is expected. The House seeks it.

I admire the hon. Gentleman’s chutzpah but it ill behoves him to talk to us about privatisation; it was his party that led to the increases and it is this Government who have stopped it, and he needs to acknowledge that. On the facts, in December the NHS in England performed more than 130,000 more diagnostic tests compared with December 2013. I note that he did not talk about Wales, where 24% of patients have waited more than eight weeks for their diagnostic test—the comparative figure is 2% of patients in England.

Order. The question was about Chester, so there was no particular reason to talk about Wales.