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Cancer Outcomes

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2022

Based on the latest available data—I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome this—one-year survival rates for all cancers combined are at a record high, with an increase from 63.6% to 73.9%, and the five-year survival rate for all cancers combined has increased from 45.7% to 54.6%.

To ensure the best cancer outcomes, patients need to start treatment as soon as they can. But in the latest data the Minister addresses, the number of those who waited for more than two weeks to see a specialist set a new record high for the third month running, soaring to more than 55,000 people in November, prior to the peak of this wave. Macmillan Cancer Supports states that more than 31,000 people in England are still waiting for their first cancer treatment, which will not do. When will the Government publish a properly resourced, properly staffed national recovery plan for cancer care?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that cancer has been an absolute priority throughout this pandemic, and treatment and services have continued. I thank all those working in cancer care for making sure that has happened. Ninety-five per cent. of people started treatment within a month of diagnosis throughout the pandemic, and there have been more than 4 million urgent referrals and 960,000 people receiving cancer treatment during that time.

Geoff Cosgrave was admitted to hospital in mid-November with kidney cancer that had spread through his lymph nodes and lungs. Last week, his wife Glynis contacted me in desperation because he was unable to access treatment to clear the blockage in his lungs as the thoracic ward at the nearby hospital had closed because of staffing shortages. After frantic and desperate chasing by his family and NHS staff, he was finally admitted to Bristol Royal Infirmary last week, but unfortunately his condition had deteriorated so he could not receive treatment. Geoff died on Friday and I am sure the whole House will want to send their deepest condolences to Geoff’s family. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Glynis wants me to place on record her family’s enormous thanks to the NHS staff who cared for Geoff, and to ask the Minister what the Government are doing to address the serious understaffing in the NHS, and the covid pressures that are having an impact on cancer care, so that no family has to suffer what the Cosgrave family are experiencing right now.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I put on record—I am sure this is shared by the whole House—our sympathy for Geoff and his family. There is no doubt that despite cancer being a priority throughout the pandemic, there have been pressures on the system. I again thank the staff, as Geoff’s family have, for carrying on throughout. I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the NHS is focusing on recovering cancer services to pre-pandemic levels; an additional £2 billion of funding was made available to the NHS and there were 44,000 more staff from October 2020. We are absolutely committed to getting back on track for pre-pandemic levels. Cancer has always been a priority. That is no comfort to Geoff and his family, but hopefully they can be assured that we are doing all we can.