HC Deb 01 July 1963 vol 680 cc12-4
11. Dr. Bray

asked the Minister of Health how many women died from cervical cancer in 1961; what proportion of these deaths could have been prevented by earlier detection and treatment; what is the average cost of taking and analysing a smear; and what steps he proposes to take to set up an effective nation-wide detection system.

13. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to encourage routine cervical smear examinations of women aged 25 to 60, and to provide the cytological facilities needed for such a service.

16. Mr. Proudfoot

asked the Minister of Health if he will set up a scheme for the routine taking of Papanicolaou smears for all women over 20 years of age.

27. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Health if he will provide the necessary financial support to ensure that the work of early diagnosis of cancer in women carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, will continue uninterrupted.

Mr. Powell

There were 2,504 deaths from cervical cancer in 1961. I cannot estimate how many could have been prevented nor suggest an average cost per smear. Regional boards will consider any requests which committees make to continue or start this procedure. In general, I would refer to my reply of 28th January to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).

Dr. Bray

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that where these services are offered more than half the women who are offered them take advantage of them and that the bottleneck occurs in the supply of technicians and pathologists who should be recruited to do the review of the smears taken? Does the Minister not agree that it is his responsibility to see that these pathologists and technicians are trained?

Mr. Powell

I agree that there are limitations on the rate at which this aspect of the Service can be developed. That, no doubt, is one of the reasons why I have been advised that it would be premature at present to aim at a general application; but I do not doubt that hospital boards will consider applications from hospital committees to go forward with it or to initiate it.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that doctors are now regarding cancer of the cervix as a preventable disease, despite the fact that it kills nearly half as many women as there are road deaths in a year? Is he further aware that there has been nearly 100 per cent. co-operation in the very few areas which have undertaken routine smearing and that estimates have been made that the cost of detecting a case is about £60, which is roughly the cost of detecting a case of pulmonary tuberculosis in the mass X-ray scheme? In view of these facts, will he reconsider the earlier and rather unsatisfactory reply he gave me?

Mr. Powell

I would rather not comment on the clinical observations of the hon. Member, but I do not at all underestimate the value and importance of this development; and this is why I say that I am sure that the hospital authorities will give it encouragement where practicable.