Non-Invasive Precision Cancer Therapies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:49 pm, 18th July 2019

I will come on to talk about workforce, and I will also talk to my officials about meeting my counterparts in the devolved Assemblies, because that keeps coming up. I cannot say anything from the Dispatch Box because I do not know the protocol on that.

Fifteen million pounds has been committed to evaluate treating patients with SABR. There are 25 providers, and it is to treat early non-small cell lung cancer. I know that there are problems with lung cancer treatment. There are only 25 centres at the moment while there is assessment of emerging clinical evidence. NHS England is investing a further £6 million to support the great work that Cancer Research UK is doing on SABR clinical trials. This is regularly reviewed by NHS England’s national specialised commissioning team and was last reviewed during 2016-17. It is expected that access will be reviewed again over the course of 2019-20 to 2020-21.

Several Members talked about the tariff. Radiotherapy services are funded through national prices, linked in the main to the number of radiotherapy fractions delivered. Any change to the income that trusts receive for radiotherapy would therefore require a change to the national tariff. We must continue to ensure that NHS payment mechanisms support the delivery of the most effective treatments. That is why the long-term plan set out NHS England’s commitment to review the national tariff, in particular to ensure that appropriate incentives are in place to encourage providers to deliver the modern techniques that we all need—the ones of today and tomorrow—and that work commenced this year.

The long-term plan also sets out NHS England’s intention to use its capital settlement, which will be negotiated in the upcoming spending review, in part to continue to replace radiotherapy equipment. I will not pre-empt those negotiations, but I think that shows a clear and ongoing financial commitment to modernising NHS radiotherapy.

We have published specifications for operational delivery networks for adult external beam radiotherapy services. That is about the 11 radiotherapy networks, and I have spoken to the hon. Member for Easington specifically about satellite services. The point is that decisions on cancer services need to be taken locally. The networks have been established—the cancer alliances—so I urge all hon. Members to encourage their local services to engage in those, because that is really what we need.

With regard to the workforce, which is mentioned in every debate on cancer, the interim people plan was published recently. The noble Baroness Harding has met the all-parliamentary party group on cancer and is fully apprised of what it is saying. The final people plan will be published later this year.

I will draw my remarks to a conclusion, because I want to leave the hon. Member for Easington enough time to sum up the debate. This has been an excellent debate. I thank the hon. Gentleman for all the work he does with Members across the House. There has been progress, but I know that there is more to do. I am happy to meet the APPG to discuss this further. We need to do more to increase cancer survival rates. We have a very ambitious target. I am happy to work with him and with all hon. Members to ensure that radiotherapy is a vital part of the battle against cancer.