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House of Commons Hansard
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11 October 2016
Volume 615
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10. What steps his Department is taking to model the potential cost savings to the NHS budget of earlier diagnosis of cancers. [906498]

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The independent cancer taskforce highlighted the report “Saving lives, averting costs”, which identified cost savings resulting from earlier diagnosis, in particular for colon, rectal and ovary cancers. We have committed to a further £300 million for earlier diagnosis, one major product of which will be the 28-day diagnosis standard to which the Secretary of State referred earlier.

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In welcoming the Minister to his post, may I highlight evidence to show that early diagnosis, in addition to making for better survival rates, offers substantial cost savings? Colon cancer costs £3,000 per patient per year to treat at stage 1, compared with over £12,000 if it is diagnosed and treated at stage 4. We have a shortage of health economists in the NHS, so will the Minister go further and actually commission a study to look at this issue on behalf of the taxpayer, because it requires further detail?

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We agree that early diagnosis saves lives and can lead to cost savings. Just as an example, we know that GP referrals are up by 91% since 2010—an additional 800,000 people are getting early diagnosis—and we are beginning to see the results of that coming through in the one-year survival figures. On my hon. Friend’s specific point about further study, Public Health England and Macmillan have commissioned recent studies on modelling, one part of which will be on the cost impact of earlier diagnosis, and we look forward to seeing the results of those studies.

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GPs play a central role in the early diagnosis of cancer. In the 1990s, Sunderland was one of the most under-resourced areas in England in terms of the GP workforce, and we now face a similar and growing problem, even though action was taken then. Will the Minister set out how he intends to make sure not only that we train more family doctors, but that they are encouraged to work in areas where there is an acute shortage?

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We are training 3,250 extra GPs every year, and we have a target of 5,000 additional doctors working in general practice by 2020. However, as well as new GPs, we must do much better with retention. That means keeping the GP population that we have, and there are a number of steps that the Government are taking to do that. On the specific point about Sunderland, there is a bursary scheme that is aimed at attracting GPs to areas where they may not necessarily have wished to work previously.