HC Deb 22 February 1994 vol 238 cc139-40
7. Mrs. Jane Kennedy

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects to receive the first report of the expert advisory group on cancer.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

In the spring.

Mrs. Kennedy

Given that the group is to investigate inequalities in cancer treatment across the United Kingdom, does the Secretary of State agree that the development of an independent cancer treatment centre in north Wales, which will be too small to sustain the number of staff with the required skill and experience, will result in the long term in a worse service for the people of Merseyside?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Lady will know that her regional health authority in Mersey, for which the Department has an extremely high regard, is giving priority to research and treatment for cancer of which, I understand, there is a high prevalence in her constituency. I know that she will be reassured to learn that discussions are under way between officials from Mersey regional health authority and those from Wales.

Mrs. Roe

Does not fighting cancer depend crucially on early detection? Therefore, were not the Government getting their priorities right when they ensured that Britain was the first country in the European Community to establish national breast and cervical cancer screening programmes based on a computerised call and recall system? Is not it also a success of Government policy that the GP contract, which was opposed by the Labour party, is ensuring that there is a greater uptake for cervical screening due to the provision of incentive payments?

Mrs. Bottomley

Indeed, cancer is one of the key aspects of "The Health of the Nation" strategy and one in which we are determined to make further progress by the turn of the century. My hon. Friend rightly commends the GP contract, characterised by the Opposition as "too heroic" for the targets to be met. In 1990, 66 per cent. of GPs met the higher cervical cancer target: the figure is now 83 per cent., with 97 per cent. of GPs receiving target payments. I commend the GPs, but I also commend the new GP contract.

Ms Lynne

Is the Secretary of State aware that a staggering every 30 minutes, one woman dies from breast cancer in this country and that that is the highest rate in the world? Does she accept that more resources will have to be found to ensure that every woman with breast cancer sees a specialist and that we establish a national standard of care to prevent any more unnecessary deaths?

Mrs. Bottomley

I share the hon. Lady's concern about breast cancer, which causes 16,000 or more deaths every year. Seven per cent. of national health service spending goes on cancer services. The breast cancer screening programme has been a formidable success, with 70 per cent. of women now taking up the invitation to be screened, but I should like the other 30 per cent. also to take up that invitation.