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Cancer Targets — [Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:42 pm on 1st May 2018.

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Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:42 pm, 1st May 2018

That is exactly what I was coming on to. I know that my hon. Friend has expressed concern, to put it mildly, about the methods used to allocate funding for the alliances in 2017-18, and in last December’s report by the all-party parliamentary group on cancer it was clear that the alliances should not be linked to achieving the 62-day target. I am aware that my hon. Friend has met with the Prime Minister to discuss the issue and I will reiterate what I am sure she will have told him. Achievement of the 62-day standard is not a pre-requisite for funding. Instead, it provides a basis on which NHS England and NHS Improvement, along with senior clinical advice, can assess an alliance’s readiness to transform services.

The alliances are an important mechanism for us in improving performance on the 62-day standard from urgent referral to treatment. They bring together clinicians from primary and secondary care, ensuring collective responsibility for the multidisciplinary teams and the services that they provide, and enabling the leadership that is crucial to the transformation of services. But the bottom line is that it is taxpayers’ money that is being allocated, and it is right and proper that alliances can demonstrate their preparedness for the funding. In 2018-19, NHS England has modified how it will fund alliances, and I can confirm that all alliances will receive transformation funding to support earlier diagnosis and better quality of life for patients.

The national support fund is a genuinely new approach to distributing funding that we have introduced in 2018-19, within the £200 million over two years funding envelope announced in 2017-18. That was in no small part in response to advocacy by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay, and I pay great credit to him and to others for their work on the link—but not the pre-requisite—that was introduced in 2017-18 between transformation funding and 62-day performance.

The fund has a number of purposes. NHS England uses it to help iron out significant variations between alliances in the amount of funding for which they originally bid. The money will be used to support alliance activity to improve 62-day performance, as well as to enable all alliances to deliver priorities, such as accelerated pathways for lung, colorectal and prostate cancer, and other innovations, such as those we heard from the hon. Member for Scunthorpe, which are included in the 2018-19 CCG planning guidance. The Secretary of State, NHS England’s national cancer director, Cally Palmer, and I all agree that the link to the 62-day standard is the right approach and the right thing for patients. I hope that that clears the matter up, even if it does not go all the way towards satisfying Members.

Although I accept that there is anxiety in some quarters about the link between the performance and the funding, I and the Government are of the view that retaining the link is in the very best interests of patients. Ultimately, they must be our primary focus, and this is public money. We will keep the matter under review. I thank my hon. Friend for his advocacy on the subject.

By the end of the cancer programme, we want to have improved survival and provided equity of access to the highest standards of modern care across all our constituencies in England. As the cancer Minister, I seldom sleep and when I am not sleeping I think very little about anything else, because we are focused on meeting the recommendations in the cancer strategy and doing better for all our constituents—those who are here, those who will live with cancer, those who are living with it now, and those who have passed, who we all know. We are on our way to realising the transformation in services that we all want to see, to make our NHS the world leader in the treatment of cancer that I know it can be.