Does the Minister agree that over 2,000 women a year are dying from cervical cancer? Why do the Government not spend the additional £20 million that would provide a 90 per cent. coverage? The hospitalisation bill is £15,000 per patient. That is equivalent to £30 million. The project to screen women once every five years costs £30 million. All the Minister needs to do is to spend £20 million and he would be £10 million in pocket.
I confirm that there are 2,000 avoidable deaths each year. If the policy of introducing screening for all women between the ages of 20 and 54 at least once every five years were introduced and if it covered all women between those ages, it would cut deaths by about 85 per cent. Our policy of screening women at least once every five years will enable us to reach more women and therefore to save more lives. To concentrate on a shorter frequency in the long run is, I agree, the ideal, but if we went for a shorter cycle we should inevitably reach fewer women.
Will my hon. Friend remember those who die of breast cancer? The numbers are now quite horrendous. Will he therefore expedite the provision of mammography for all women in the particularly vulnerable age group of 50 and older?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She is absolutely right that the breast screening programme—which is new, unlike screening for cancer of the cervix, which commenced in 1966—is most valuable and saves the lives of many women. We are keeping that programme under close review, and I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.
I share some of the hon. Gentleman's concern, but he ought to appreciate that the information that is collected by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys depends in part on figures that come from voluntary organisations. It is not, therefore, within my power to ensure that comprehensive figures are available for the most recent years, much though I should like to do so.