Pancreatic Cancer

Part of Youth Inmates: Solitary Confinement – in Westminster Hall at 4:18 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:18 pm, 2nd April 2019

Indeed. I will come to that point, if the hon. Gentleman bears with me.

I would like to highlight the other unsurvivable cancers that suffer from late diagnosis, which, as well as pancreatic cancer, include cancer of the stomach and oesophagus. We must ensure that we also focus on those cancers.

The focus of the hon. Gentleman’s speech was that pancreatic cancer should be treated as a cancer emergency. Pancreatic Cancer UK’s recent demand for faster treatment set the ambition to treat pancreatic cancer within 20 days from diagnosis by 2024. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Liz Oakley. The fact that she had treatment within 12 days shows that it can be done. We should embrace that level of ambition. While we recognise that great achievement and advance, we should ensure that that is the experience across our national health service.

What I will say does not quite meet the hon. Gentleman’s request, but I think he will welcome the direction of travel. NHS England will shortly be introducing a faster diagnostic standard of 28 days for all cancer patients, including those with pancreatic cancer. That will mean that every patient can expect a definitive diagnosis—yes or no—within 28 days. Taken together with the 62-day referral to treatment standard, all patients should expect to start their treatment within 34 days of diagnosis.

I know that is not quite the target that the hon. Gentleman set me, but if we can ensure the whole system works to that efficiency, we will make great strides in tackling this. I cannot emphasise enough that we should never lack ambition in how far we are prepared to drive improvements. That standard of treatment within 34 days is the maximum, but I expect trusts always to treat patients according to clinical need and to prioritise those needing urgent treatment, such as Liz Oakley, who received treatment within 12 days.

We welcome Pancreatic Cancer UK and all other stakeholders working with the pancreatic cancer clinical community to develop practices to shorten the time before treatment even further. It is important that we continue that dialogue, not just to be reactive, but to build confidence, because poor survival rates are well understood. We do not want people to be diagnosed and automatically think that there is no hope. There is always hope, and our NHS services must ensure that people understand that.

NHS services for pancreatic cancer have improved significantly in recent years. I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman accepted that. In the spirit of demanding more, it is always good to look at how far we have come. I thank him for that. There are now clearer diagnostic pathways. Decision making is done by specialist multi-disciplinary teams.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—