I have deep sympathy with anyone who has been affected by cancer and I pay tribute to Breast Cancer Now (BCN) for the work it does in funding research, championing improved access to medicines, and in providing support to affected individuals and their families.
I believe we should set an ambition for the NHS to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe. Key to this will be improving early diagnosis, public awareness and screening programmes, as well as ensuring that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.
The BCN report highlights a number of areas which are key to improving cancer outcomes and experiences. I share the concerns of BCN that the funding of new and innovative drugs is increasingly becoming based on cost-effectiveness rather than on clinical need. I believe we need a top-to-bottom reform of NICE to ensure that drug acceptance and funding is determined by clinical need.
I support the full implementation of the Cancer Strategy, which was published by the independent NHS England Cancer Taskforce in 2015. It contains proposals that could go a long way towards helping some of the estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer. I am pleased that the Government has now accepted all 96 recommendations of the strategy and implementation is being led by NHS England’s National Cancer Transformation Board.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to invest an additional £30 billion in the NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need. The manifesto also promised to guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks and take one million people off NHS waiting lists by the end of the next parliament.
I hope the Government gives careful consideration to the recommendations outlined by Breast Cancer Now and ensures that all patients with cancer receive the best possible care and support.