Skip to main content

Cancer Referral Times

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2016

4. What the average time taken is between referral and treatment for patients with (a) ovarian and (b) bowel cancer; and if he will make a statement. (907200)

The figures for times between referral and treatment are published against the standard whereby 85% of patients should begin treatment within 62 days of GP referral. The September 2016 figures were 69% for bowel cancer and 75% for ovarian cancer.

Is it not the case that only skin cancer and breast cancer referrals are meeting that 62-day target? Is it not unsurprising that the survival rate over 10 years is 78% for breast cancer and 89% for skin cancer, whereas it is 35% for ovarian cancer and 57% for bowel cancer? How does the Minister feel about these excess deaths, and what is he going to do to ensure that people with these cancers are treated in time?

There are eight cancer standards for waiting times and we are consistently meeting seven of them, as we did in September. The right hon. Lady is right to say that the 62-day waiting time has been challenging, and that has an impact on bowel cancer and ovarian cancer. It is also true, though, that one-year, five-year and 10-year survival rates for bowel and ovarian cancer are improving significantly. However, we do need to go further. That is why all 96 recommendations of the Cancer Taskforce have been accepted—we are investing up to £300 million to make that happen—and there is going to be a new test whereby all patients will be either diagnosed or given the all-clear within 28 days.

I refer to my entry in the register. Does my hon. Friend agree that research will defeat bowel and gastrointestinal tract cancer, and may I invite him to congratulate Bowel and Cancer Research on its fundraising and support for the cancer research community?

My hon. Friend is quite right: research, in the end, is the way we will beat cancer. This country is ahead of all countries in the world in terms of the number of trials going on, including the US. The voluntary sector, including the charity to which he refers, makes a big impact and I congratulate it.

I lost my mum to ovarian cancer just a few years ago. She received outstanding treatment at the Rosemere centre in Preston. That is the centre that my constituents need to travel to for radiotherapy for all forms of cancer, but an average round trip to receive treatment takes about two hours. Does the Minister agree that that is not acceptable, and will he support the Rosemere centre in setting up a satellite unit at Kendal hospital, so that people in south Cumbria can get treatment quickly?

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that two hours is a long time. His is a large constituency and I am very happy to look at his specific point and to revert to the House.

Like the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), I lost my mother to ovarian cancer. One of the reasons is late diagnosis and it has been suggested that cervical smear results should state that it is not a test for ovarian cancer. Will the excellent Minister update the House on his research on that proposal?

My hon. Friend is right to say that one of the big issues with ovarian cancer—we talked about this earlier—is that early diagnosis does not happen as quickly as it should. It is true that the cervical cancer test could raise awareness of ovarian cancer. We are looking at the issue and will revert to the House.

Ovarian cancer accounts for some 12% of all new cases, and early diagnosis is critical. What discussions has the Minister had with the devolved Assemblies to co-ordinate and make available better treatment options, to provide a truly UK-wide NHS?

This is a reserved matter, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that early diagnosis is the single most important thing that we need to do better in order to improve our cancer out-turn rates, and that dialogue continues.

Is it not rather unfair to compare outcome rates for skin cancer, with which I was diagnosed, with those for other types of cancer, because it is easier to diagnose skin cancer at an early stage, which means that the outcomes are usually very good?

Yes, because it is easier to diagnose at an early stage—that is the point I am making. Compared with 2010, are we not seeing more than 26,000 extra outpatients a day?

Compared with 2010, we are referring an average of 800,000 more people urgently for cancer treatment. My hon. Friend is also right to say that both skin and lung cancer have more straightforward pathways than ovarian and bowel cancer, but that is not to say that we should not focus on continually improving in relation to the points made by the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart).