I congratulate Henry Smith on securing this debate and on the hard work that he has done to promote this issue in the House and further afield. I am happy to be a member of the APPG along with others in this Chamber today and to support him in the role that he plays.
As the Democratic Unionist party spokesperson for health, I felt it necessary to make a contribution, even though the onus of where we are is probably England-based. We need to highlight some issues with regard to the NHS and blood cancer care. My father, who is dead and gone almost three years, had cancer—not blood cancer—on three occasions, but he survived those three occasions owing to the skill of the surgeon’s knife, the care of the nurses and the prayers of God’s people. Clearly, we have made great advances—some magnificent advances—in cancer care over the past few years.
May I say to the Minister, the shadow Minister and the proposer of the debate that I, along with others, have a meeting with the Prime Minister at half past three, so I need to get away for that occasion?
I was delighted to receive information on blood cancer and I take this opportunity to thank all of those who are working so hard to highlight the issue and bring about change, and who supply such enlightening and helpful information. There are almost 250,000 people living with blood cancer in the UK today. Although many forms of blood cancer are rare, as a group blood cancer is Britain’s fifth most common cancer and third biggest cancer killer, claiming more lives each year than breast or prostate cancer. Those figures surprised me. We are all grateful for the advertising that highlights breast and prostate cancer, which affects us men. Unfortunately, we are probably loth to see the doctor, but the Minister’s Department encourages us to be more active and forthcoming about the problems that we have. Advertising keeps these things fresh in our minds and educates us as to the symptoms to be aware of, but the fact is that blood cancer kills more people and we need to be mindful of that when finding additional funding. The Minister always responds in a positive fashion to the debates in Westminster Hall and tries to help.
Northern Ireland has an average of 123 cases of leukaemia diagnosed annually. That may not seem much, but when we take into account the small size of Northern Ireland it is clearly something that is taking its toll. It is also clear that the aftercare of those cases is essential. Although we are discussing NHS England, there is a need for devolved bodies to work together to ensure that we do not have a UK postcode lottery for the treatment of blood cancers and that an equal level of treatment is available UK-wide. Can the Minister outline whether he has had any co-operation with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland? If not, is he willing to undertake to do that?