HC Deb 14 April 1999 vol 329 cc228-9 3.32 pm
Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about cancer services in the United Kingdom; to make provision for monitoring and improving the quality of cancer treatment and care provided by the National Health Service; to require the Secretary of State to undertake a new review and report on cancer services in the United Kingdom; and to provide for making such information available to the general public. Cancer has been called the greatest health care challenge of the 21st century. Britain can boast some of the finest cancer treatment centres in the world, but the disease still affects one in three people. That means that about 440 sufferers die every single day, with an annual total of 160,000 deaths.

In Britain, we have one of the worst cancer mortality rates in the world; worse than Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Spain and Japan. It is a growing problem. People are living longer—which is to be well received—but that presents greater problems, as people are then susceptible to cancer in old age. We have improved treatments that improve survival rates, but we have specific increases in lung and skin cancers.

The Calman-Hine report has said that provision is a cancer lottery, especially in rural areas. The Government clearly see the fight against cancer as a priority, and I welcome that. Following the Calman-Hine report's recommendation that services should be made more patient-centred, and dovetailed together, we have seen various papers, including "Our Healthier Nation" and "The New NHS", which make cancer a priority. There is a new two-week deadline to see a consultant for all cancer patients. The National Cancer Forum has recently been established.

I welcome the announcement only last month by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health of £150 million of new national lottery money, which will result in better education of the public, new cancer screening, new treatments and improved technology.

The Bill is backed by the main cancer charities, and especially Macmillan Cancer Relief, which is devoted to caring for people with cancer. It provides about 1,700 nurses nationwide and has invested about £70 million in building projects to provide the tender loving care that is needed by cancer patients and their families. I want to express my gratitude to Macmillan for its support and advice on the Bill and to other cancer charities and organisations such as the Cancer Research Campaign, the British Association of Cancer United Patients, Marie Curie, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Sargent, the Royal Marsden hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research.

I was astonished to find that, at present, there is no central register or directory of cancer care services. The information is fragmented by type of cancer or by region or is simply non-existent, especially for the rarer cancers. From speaking to patients, carers, nurses, doctors, consultants and researchers I believe that there is overwhelming support for such a directory.

The Bill would require the Secretary of State for Health regularly to review cancer services and to produce a guide to identify the type of cancer care provision; areas of greatest need; the range of treatment; information for patients on the different strains of the disease; performance statistics for cancer care centres, in particular, the number of patients treated; the facilities available; and the survival rates—and to place it on an internet website and disseminate it through NHS Direct so that it is widely available. The directory would need to be maintained, reviewed and evaluated.

The directory would allow patients access to current information on the cancer that affects them, the specific details of the treatment that they can expect to receive, the quality of the cancer care at their local or referred centre and contact information for charities and support groups. For the primary care groups to which we can look forward, it would give information on availability and extent of treatment locally and nationally, on the results of on-going trials, on new technology and on points of contact. It could be used by many organisations worldwide.

I salute the courage of all cancer sufferers and their families. Day in, day out they battle under enormous mental and physical strains. They have to take the good and the bad news from doctors and battle through sickness, tiredness, pain and fear. They dread the surgery, the chemotherapy and the radiotherapy that can cure them.

I know the damage that can be done by cancer. My father, Tom Marsden, died of the disease 14 years ago. I have also seen it at first hand in the Shropshire and Mid-Wales hospice, which I have visited regularly and on behalf of which I hope to complete the Flora London marathon on Sunday. I sincerely look forward to other hon. Members being present, in mind if not in body.

We must celebrate the courage of those affected by cancer and remember that survival rates are 50 to 60 per cent. on average, and much higher for specific types of cancer. I have seen the professionals in the front line at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital. In particular, I thank Dr. Rajiv Agrawal and Tim Cooper, the manager of the radiotherapy unit. They have given unstinting support, advice and help in the preparation of the Bill and they and their team of nurses are dedicated professionals helping and caring for cancer sufferers every day.

We should support the medical professionals through more funding for research and better information in the effort to find new cures for cancer. The Bill would go a small way towards helping everybody—patients, carers and medical professionals—and I urge the House to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Paul Marsden, Dr. Evan Harris, Miss Julie Kirkbride, Mrs. Helen Brinton, Mr. Kevin Barron and Dr. Doug Naysmith.

  1. CANCER CARE 95 words
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