HC Deb 06 June 2000 vol 351 cc146-7
4. Jane Griffiths (Reading, East)

If he will make a statement on the two-week waiting period for referral to a cancer specialist. [122862]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper)

The two week waiting time standard was introduced for urgent cases of suspected breast cancer in April 1999. Since then, more than 56,000 women have benefited by seeing a specialist within two weeks. That high standard of care is being put in place for all other urgent cases of suspected cancer during this year.

Jane Griffiths

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Bearing in mind that the two-week period applies to all cases of suspected cancer—or will soon do so—will she join me this month at the launch of the third Everyman male cancer awareness month? With the help of sports celebrities, the media highlighted the fact that, although prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with over 9,000 deaths year, it receives only about 5 per cent. of the available research funding. Will she join me in welcoming the building of the UK's first dedicated male cancer research centre? Later this year, it should begin to turn around that situation and help all our men.

Yvette Cooper

I certainly join my hon. Friend in giving strong support to the work being done by the Institute of Cancer Research to raise awareness of men's cancers. I share her concern about the need for more research into prostate cancer, which is probably one of the most mysterious common cancers. That is why we recently announced as a first step an extra £1 million of Government research money for prostate cancer this year and why we are working with other cancer research funders to take the work further. We have made it clear that we are particularly keen to see research into new testing and treatment technologies for prostate cancer.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

The question of the hon. Member for Reading, East (jane Griffiths) referred to waiting times for referral to a cancer specialist, and therein lies the problem. Does the Minister acknowledge that qualified opinion is pretty much universal in taking the view that, in cancer cases, waiting time is less important than the specialism of the doctor to which the referral is made? Does she also acknowledge that the top priority is ensuring that urgent cancer referrals are seen by cancer specialists and not by general surgeons? What percentage of urgent cancer referrals are currently seen by cancer specialists?

Yvette Cooper

It is a top priority to make sure that we have increasing numbers of cancer specialists and that people are seen, treated and dealt with by multidisciplinary teams that deal with cancer. That is exactly why we have made cancer a top priority and why Professor Mike Richards is working to develop a national cancer programme to put such policies in place.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

My constituency has some of the worst health problems—they include certain cancers—in the United Kingdom. At the health summit yesterday, did my hon. Friend have the opportunity to discuss that issue with her opposite number in the Welsh Assembly and to urge that the formula that determines the distribution of health moneys throughout Wales should be based on health needs and not on head of population?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend will be aware that this issue is a matter for the Welsh Assembly. However, I can tell him that it is the subject of continual discussion across the United Kingdom.

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