One in four people currently receive radiotherapy—a number that will increase if the Government achieve their early diagnosis targets. Ministers dispute that 20,000 people in England annually miss out on appropriate access to life-saving radiotherapy. What is the Secretary of State’s estimate? Will he commit to meeting representatives of the Radiotherapy4Life campaign to discuss how we can improve radiotherapy provision in England?
I am absolutely happy to meet the group. According to the latest figures, about four in 10 of all cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy; it is a critical treatment to tackle cancer. As I say, there has been an investment programme to replace and upgrade radiotherapy equipment, with 80 upgrades or replacements over the past three years, but there is clearly more to do to make sure that people with cancer get the best possible treatment.
May I welcome the NHS long-term plan commitment to complete the £130 million upgrade of radiotherapy machines throughout England? I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm that more effective radiotherapy will mean patients experiencing fewer side effects and having shorter treatment.
Yes, that is exactly right. That is why we have put in place the new LINACs—linear accelerators, the equipment that is being rolled out across the country in a £130 million programme. We are always looking at what more we can do to help people to beat cancer.
Will the Secretary of State agree to look personally at the case for a new satellite radiotherapy unit at Westmorland General Hospital, tied to the Rosemere unit in Preston? I had the privilege last week of driving my constituent Kate Baron to her treatment at Royal Preston Hospital. Wonderful treatment though it is, it is a three-hour round trip that she has had to take on 15 separate occasions—I went with her only the once. Hundreds of people in the south Lakes have to make debilitating, lengthy round trips to get treatment day after day, which is damaging to their long-term health and to their ability to access radiotherapy at all.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. He did not raise the individual case with me in advance, but I can see the point he is making. The public health Minister, who is responsible for cancer policy, will be very happy to meet him.