Today, I have announced a new cancer strategy to be published within six months of a Labour Government and a plan to tackle ageism in cancer treatment.
Labour will create a new annual Cancer Treatments Fund to improve access not just to the latest drugs but also to the latest forms of radiotherapy and surgery that are too often not available for thousands of people with cancer.
In a speech to the Britain Against Cancer conference, I commited the next Labour Government to creating a fund that starts in April 2016, when the Cancer Drugs Fund expires.
The current fund, which only pays for drugs, will come to an end in March 2016. The new annual fund would build on existing provision, but expand the scope of extra investment to improve access not just to drugs but also to radiotherapy and surgery - the two forms of treatment that are responsible for nine in 10 cases where cancer is cured.
In the move to the new fund, Labour would also guarantee that any patient in receipt of a drug from the Cancer Drugs Fund would continue to be offered that drug.
The new £330 million Fund will be created by adding £50m from the pharmaceutical industry rebate to the £280m-a-year Cancer Drugs Fund budget. Cancer experts will be consulted on the allocation of the resource and the best mechanisms for delivering it.
Figures from Cancer Research UK show that while half of radiotherapy patients should receive Intensity-modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), it is currently only received by a third. The number of patients receiving Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR), which treats lung and other cancers over a shorter length of time, fell by 10 per cent last year. Meanwhile, 124 patients were sent abroad to receive Proton Beam therapy last year as the NHS will not be able to deliver it until 2018.
A Labour Government will also publish a new cancer strategy within six months of the election. Separately, the Government will commission Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Surgeons and other key stakeholders to lead a programme of work to make recommendations on addressing the under-treatment of older cancer patients.
The new Fund forms part of Labour’s 10-year plan to be the best in Europe on cancer survival and save up to 10,000 lives a year. It builds on Ed Miliband’s commitment earlier this year to guarantee patients a test and result within a week where cancer is suspected.
A Labour Government will also support Teenage Cancer Trust’s programme of awareness sessions on cancer, currently available in around 500 schools, and roll it out to the rest of the country.
My goal is to make the NHS the best health service in the world for the treatment of cancer. We will only achieve that if we give patients access to the most effective forms of treatment, including advanced radiotherapy.
The problem with cancer policy under the current Government is that it prioritises one form of cancer treatment over others and places one group of patients ahead of another. This is indefensible when we know surgery and radiotherapy are responsible for nine in ten cases where cancer is cured. It is not right that 40,000 people every year who could benefit from radiotherapy are missing out.
This is why Labour will build on the benefits of the Cancer Drugs Fund but extend the principles of improving access and supporting innovation to all forms of cancer treatment and all cancer patients.”
Too many young people are leaving education without knowing some of the basics about cancer and how to look out for the warning signs. Every young person should, as part of their education, have the opportunity to learn more and know where to go if they are worried. Teenage Cancer Trust is doing brilliant work in this area and with a bit more support from Government we can make their sessions available to every school in the country.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is evidence that too many older people are missing out on effective treatments. We need to eradicate any suggestion of ageism and the under-treatment that can result. That’s why the next Labour Government will launch an immediate programme of work led by the Royal College of Surgeons and Cancer Research UK to understand what’s happening in practice and make recommendations on tackling under-treatment.