Cancer Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:48 pm on 8th December 2016.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:48 pm, 8th December 2016

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Cancer Strategy one year on.

In moving this motion, which stands in my name and that of Mr Baron, I wish to recognise all those in the cancer community for all their work, day in, day out, fighting this disease, and the huge number of Members of this House who, through a wide range of cancer-related all-party groups, carry out work in this very important area.

The hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay who is chairman of the all-party group on cancer, is unable to be here today, but he wanted me to say how much he appreciates the Backbench Business Committee’s granting this debate. As Members may know, the hon. Gentleman’s wife is undergoing treatment, and I am sure that everyone in the House would want to send their best wishes to him and his family at this difficult time.

It is estimated that there are more than 2.4 million people living with cancer in the UK, and that number continues to grow. Cancer is becoming more complex, with many more treatments available. Many patients are living with co-morbidities and with the consequences of a cancer diagnosis many years after treatment has finished.

The all-party group on cancer has a proud record of successfully campaigning on a number of issues. Just two days ago, we held our annual Britain against Cancer conference in Central Hall—it is one of the largest cancer conferences in the UK. On behalf of the group, I wish to pass on thanks to all the contributors, including the Under-Secretary of State for Health, David Mowat, and the shadow Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Jonathan Ashworth, for their contributions. Delegates very much appreciated everybody’s input.

The last two years have seen significant developments in cancer policy. In July 2015, the independent cancer taskforce published the England cancer strategy. Since we last debated this issue in November last year, NHS England has published its England cancer strategy implementation plan, setting out how it will roll out the 96 recommendations.

More recently, we have seen the publication of the National Cancer Transformation Board’s progress report, outlining what steps NHS England has taken over the past year in implementing these recommendations across the country. Only last Friday, the Office for National Statistics published the latest one-year cancer survival rate figures for those patients diagnosed in 2014 and followed up to 2015. As NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens pointed out at the Britain against Cancer conference, that showed the dramatic improvement in patient outcomes that has been achieved over the past 20 years. That is something to be celebrated, but there is still much more to do.

The all-party group has been active in monitoring progress on the England cancer strategy, holding a short inquiry early in the year to assess progress. We concluded that positive progress is being made, but that there is still much more to do to realise the ambition of the England cancer strategy. Having taken evidence from a wide range of people, we made a number of recommendations, which I will use to highlight some of the key themes that emerged from the inquiry.

The first key recommendation focused on the need for greater clarity on funding for all the 96 recommendations of the England cancer strategy. It was positive, therefore, to see more detail in the National Cancer Transformation Board’s progress report, which set out the funding available per year for the next four years. I very much welcome the announcement by Simon Stevens at our Britain against Cancer conference that Cancer Alliances will be able to bid for £200 million of funding to invest in early diagnosis, care for people living with cancer, and cancer after treatment. That is very good news, and I look forward to getting further clarity on how the full funding package, set out in the progress report, will be allocated across the cancer strategy’s recommendations. This is particularly important given the lack of clarity around cancer funding to date. The estimates for the total amount spent on cancer care in the NHS per newly diagnosed patient have not been published beyond 2012-13, which has been described as a significant data gap when it comes to evaluating the cost and efficiency of cancer care. Will the Minister today commit to publish an update on those figures in the House of Commons Library at the earliest opportunity?

Alongside funding, another recommendation and concern that was raised by stakeholders in our inquiry was around the need for further transparency on how the cancer strategy is being delivered, what the priorities are, and who is responsible for delivering key recommendations. Again, the progress report from the National Cancer Transformation Board went some way to address that concern. However, further detail around how the strategy is being delivered, particularly the membership and terms of reference for the six oversight groups tasked with overseeing delivery, is vital to ensure that the wider cancer community is properly engaged.

We also heard from many organisations that were unclear on how the delivery of recommendations will be monitored at a local level.