I pay tribute to Breast Cancer Now (BCN) for the work it does in funding research, championing improved access to medicines, and in providing support to affected individuals and their families.
We should set an ambition for the NHS to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe. For this to be achieved, there will need to be an improvement in early diagnosis, public awareness and screening programmes. GPs need to have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.
The recent BCN report, Good enough? Breast cancer in the UK, highlights a number of areas which are key to improving cancer outcomes and experiences. It points out that the funding of new and innovative drugs is increasingly becoming based on cost-effectiveness alone, rather than on clinical need in the round. I believe we need a top-to-bottom reform of NICE to ensure that drug acceptance and funding is determined by clinical need.
I support the full implementation of the Cancer Strategy, which was published by the independent NHS England Cancer Taskforce in 2015. It contains proposals that could go a long way towards helping some of the estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer. I am pleased that the government has now accepted all 96 recommendations of the strategy and implementation is being led by NHS England’s National Cancer Transformation Board.
I remain concerned that the government has repeatedly missed the national cancer target since January 2014. In the past year, waiting lists have topped 4 million; the number of patients spending more than 4 hours in A&E has risen 250 per cent; and the Royal College of Nursing has warned of a 40,000 shortfall of nursing staff in the NHS.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to invest an additional £30 billion in the NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need. The manifesto also promised to guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks and take one million people off NHS waiting lists by the end of the next parliament.
I hope the government gives careful consideration to the recommendations outlined by Breast Cancer Now and ensures that all patients with cancer receive the best possible care and support.