Thank you to all those who contacted me about the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign. It is incredibly concerning that waiting times for cancer care in England are the longest on record. More must be done to tackle backlogs, bring down waiting lists and ensure our NHS has the staff, equipment and modern technology it needs to treat patients on time.
Radiotherapy is a vital tool in our fight against cancer and should play a key part in overcoming the backlog. Radiotherapy provides a cost-effective and COVID-resilient form of cancer treatment by not having an impact on the immune system or requiring admission into intensive care.
Early diagnosis is key to improving survival and allows for early intervention and treatment. But there has been a sharp rise in long waits for cancer therapy, with record numbers of patients waiting longer than three months for treatment. Ministers point to the impact of COVID, but we entered the pandemic with record waiting lists and cancer targets repeatedly missed.
The Government said it is investing in new community diagnostic centres to address growing backlogs. But the impact of these new diagnostic facilities will be limited unless other key issues in the health system – such as severe workforce shortages – are addressed. The Health Secretary is consulting on a Major Conditions strategy, but I am concerned the record of this Government on cancer is delayed reviews and endless consultations, when patients need action now.
NHS staff are working incredibly hard but there simply are not enough of them. I am pleased the Opposition has committed to make our NHS fit for the future, with a workforce plan that will make serious improvements in cancer care. Paid for by ending the non-dom tax status regime, the plan will double the number of medical school places, deliver 10,000 extra nursing and midwifery clinical placements a year, train double the number of district nurses each year, and deliver 5,000 more health visitors.
This is part of a ten-year plan for change and modernisation of the NHS, to deliver higher standards for patients, and a new model of care that creates more NHS “front doors”, so patients get the care they need on time. More doctors, more nurses, lower waiting times, and higher standards for patients.