NHS: Cancer Treatments - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:43 pm on 25th January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour 4:43 pm, 25th January 2018

My Lords, this is the greatest privilege, and one of the most daunting moments of my life—to follow my noble friend, with the eloquence, the care, the compassion and the courage she has shown. She is my noble friend—not by affiliation or values, although we share them—but through a lifelong friendship that has lasted for well over 40 years.

If the House will forgive me, I want to say a word about Tessa—the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell—as a person. We got to know each other when we both chaired our respective social services committee. That is when I saw to begin with her care and compassion, described so well this afternoon. It is a compassion that has overcome the challenges that she faces and those of her family. Yesterday on the “Today” programme, and she said it this afternoon about the community of care, it was not just her own courage that shone through; it was the deep love and affection of her family—David, Jess and Matthew, and her extended family. The care she displayed this afternoon reached out, because it is the caring family and the community around those with cancer who travel on the journey as well. It is the love and hope that they give that reaches out.

Sally, the young mother on the “Today” programme yesterday, as with the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, whose husband Philip I knew well and saw just three days before he died, displayed the search for excellence, for innovation and, above all, for action, that my noble friend has called for this afternoon.

I know absolutely nothing about the ECI—but I will. There is a need to set aside bureaucracy in terms of the experimentation that patients who are on this journey wish to try, to set aside the usual processes and to share the best practice from wherever it comes. Part of the role of family is to enable people to be able to sustain themselves while they seek access to that innovation and that improvement, and to know about where excellence exists here and across the world. Who you know is so often—too often—the telling point when you are seeking the best that exists in scientific development. What my noble friend Lady Jowell, my friend Tessa, has said this afternoon is that this should be available whoever you know, wherever you are and whatever access you have had to other people’s knowledge. The breakthroughs across the world need to be made available as quickly and with as little bureaucracy in our health service as possible.

My noble friend mentioned 24 May last year, when she was on the way to a Sure Start programme. She and I—when she was the first designated Public Health Minister and I had education and employment—started the Sure Start programme. We both went on a journey through to Cabinet—she exemplified her own wonderful networking skills in helping us to win the Olympics for London and their implementation, which shone across the world, and I had all sorts of different guises, good and bad. That journey has, for Tessa, my noble friend, always been about support, care and reaching out to others. When terrible terrorist attacks have taken place, not just here but across the world, she has cared about those families, just as her family now care about her. We are, all of us, privileged to be here this afternoon and to have heard her speak. She has given us a clarion call to pick up that cudgel and work tirelessly to ensure that what she seeks is carried forward for others in the future, and that our NHS, our scientists, our innovators and our consultants can draw down on the experience from across the world and can remember Tessa Jowell as we all will, and who we are privileged to have heard this afternoon.