Labour pledges £330m cancer funding

Published: Tuesday 9th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Labour is promising to establish a £330 million cancer treatments fund to improve access to cutting-edge surgery and radiotherapy as well as the latest drugs if it gains power in next year’s general election.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham says the fund will build upon and expand the current cancer drugs which are due to expire at the end of March 2016.

It will be established by adding £50 million from the rebate paid to the government by the pharmaceutical industry to the budget of the existing fund.

In a speech to a conference organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC), Mr Burnham will say the new fund will support other treatments – such as advanced radiotherapy – as well as drugs.

Labour pointed to figures from Cancer Research UK suggesting that while half of radiotherapy patients should receive the intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), only a third actually get it.

It said that the number of patients receiving the stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), which is used in the treatment of lung and other cancers, fell by 10% last year.

At the same time, 124 patients were sent abroad to receive proton beam therapy as it will not be available in the NHS until 2018.

“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,” Mr Burnham will say.

“This is indefensible when we know surgery and radiotherapy are responsible for nine in 10 cases where cancer is cured.

“It is not right that there are 40,000 people every year who could benefit from radiotherapy who are missing out.”

Ed Miliband has already committed a Labour government to guaranteeing patients will be tested and get back their results within a week where cancer is suspected.

In a report, the APPGC warned that cancer survival rates in UK were lagging behind other European countries and emphasised the need for more early diagnosis if they were to be brought in line with the best.

The group’s chairman, Conservative MP John Baron, said in his foreword: “Too many cancer patients continue to be diagnosed too late. It remains a national disgrace that a quarter of all cancers are first diagnosed as late as A&E.

“If we matched the best survival rates in Europe, the Government estimates that 10,000 lives a year would be saved. We should strive to make this a reality.”

Published: Tuesday 9th December 2014 by The News Editor

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