HC Deb 06 July 1999 vol 334 cc814-5
9. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West)

What investment his Department is making in services to combat bowel cancer. [88245]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

To help prevent bowel cancer, £750,000 has been made available this year for pilot studies relating to diet and colorectal cancer and £1.5 million per annum over three years is funding colorectal cancer screening pilots. Since 1998, an additional £20 million has been invested in additional work force, equipment and audit processes to speed access to diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer and to reduce waiting times.

Dr. Naysmith

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Bristol beating bowel cancer campaign, launched earlier this year? It has two main aims: first, to raise £1.5 million for research into bowel cancer, some of which will be spent at the world-class laboratories at Bristol university headed by Professor Chris Paraskeva; and secondly, and perhaps more important, to raise the awareness of bowel cancer among the general population.

Bowel cancer is one of those cancers that is susceptible to treatment if caught early. May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention also to the fact that recent research suggests that, following treatment, the outcome can depend heavily on the affluence or poverty of the groups from which patients are drawn? Will he assure me that he will supply the resources and has a strategy to deal with that problem?

Mr. Dobson

I welcome the activities of the BBBC campaign in Bristol, which is obviously doing good work and is exactly the sort of thing that we want to encourage. It sounds to me that it makes better use of its money than the BBC. The statement I shall make a little later today will emphasise the extent to which we want cancer to be combated by early identification and early treatment, particularly those cancers where early treatment means that people can recover entirely. That is very much to be welcomed, and I will do my best to sustain such initiatives.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that irritable bowel syndrome in children is a serious problem? What resources are the Government devoting to that? Does he agree that one method of combating bowel complaints is a restrictive diet? Are the Government looking at ways in which such diets can be employed to reduce the incidence of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome?

Mr. Dobson

I try to be honest, and I do not know the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about what the Government are doing about irritable bowel syndrome in children. I shall write to him as soon as I find out. Diet has a major impact on that complaint and on all sorts of bowel conditions, including cancer.