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Cancer: Early Diagnosis

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2018

Britain is world leading at treating cancer when it is discovered, but we do not diagnose it early enough, so we will radically overhaul our screening programmes, roll out rapid diagnostic centres for people with early symptoms, and expand mobile lung screening units. Our ambition is to ensure that three quarters of cancers are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 by 2028, up from half today.

May I first highlight the excellent Guy’s Cancer Centre at Queen Mary’s hospital in Sidcup, a state-of-the-art facility which offers local cancer patients treatment closer to home? Secondly, can my right hon. Friend provide any detail on how the NHS long-term plan will improve cancer services?

Yes. Focusing on early diagnosis will help to save lives. Indeed, the cancer survival rates have never been higher than they are now. About 7,000 people who are alive today would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as they were in 2010. However, we want to use the most cutting-edge technologies in order to save more lives.

In respect of early screening, how does my right hon. Friend expect the measures that he has introduced to move the service forward in the way that we want to see?

Absolutely central to this is ensuring that we address cancer at the earliest possible opportunity. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the greater is the likelihood of survival, so we want to see more cancers diagnosed earlier across the board.

22. At the start of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my local hospital, Stepping Hill, had to shut its doors to breast care patients in my constituency, because its two-week urgent waiting times had risen to five weeks owing to chronic staff shortages and underfunding. What will the Secretary of State do to improve outcomes for constituents like mine who cannot access those services? (907230)

The announcement the details of which I have just set out comes with £1.6 billion of the £20 billion uplift we are putting into the NHS written into the long-term plan, so the funding is there to deliver on this policy, too.

The Secretary of State is right to say that early diagnosis provides more opportunity to cure and treat cancers. Some 60% of those treated for cancer will receive radiotherapy, and nearly every radiotherapy centre in the country has linear accelerators that are enabled to provide the advanced SABR, or stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy, technology, but Government—NHS England—contracts mean that out of the 52 centres in England no more than 20 are contracted to actually use this technology. That means that either patients are not receiving the highest quality life-saving standard of treatment that they could be or that trusts are providing it anyway but are not being paid and valuable data on mistreatment are being completely lost. Will the right hon. Gentleman order NHS England to stop this recklessness, and frankly lethal, nonsense and agree to every—

Order. [Interruption.] Order. The thrust of the question is entirely clear. I was going to offer the hon. Gentleman an Adjournment debate on the subject until I realised that he had in fact just conducted it.

And also, Mr Speaker, the hon. Gentleman’s all-party group is meeting my Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), on this very matter. Since 2016 we have put £130 million of funding in to try to resolve the issue that the hon. Gentleman talks about: to make sure that all new equipment is capable of delivering advanced radiotherapy. Work on this is ongoing.

In calling the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) I promise to make no reference to the result of the match last night between Arsenal and Leicester City.

Mr Speaker, you had a broader smile on your face this morning than my friend the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) and I. We still support Leicester and hope we will pay you back some day.

An important aspect of diagnosing cancer is to find the drugs that address it. What has been done to ensure the partnerships between universities and the NHS can continue, so that they can find new drugs and therefore address cancers at a very early stage?

There are deepening relationships between universities and the NHS right across the country, especially in this field of the combination of diagnosis and early treatment. Some of the most advanced technology and research in the world is happening in universities in the UK in order to save lives, which is such an important issue here.