HL Deb 17 June 2002 vol 636 cc481-3
Baroness Northover

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of the money directed towards cancer care has ultimately been used for that purpose.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

My Lords, we are currently reviewing the outturn position for the financial year 2001–02 and the progress made in that year. New cancer funding for 2002–03 was earmarked within NHS allocations and an assessment of the position of earmarked funds forms an important part of the process for agreeing strategic health authority plans.

Baroness Northover

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I certainly welcome the high priority that the Government supposedly have given to cancer care. But as Professor Gordon McVie of Cancer Research UK said, the cheques appear to have been lost in the post. The department does not appear to know what has happened to the money; the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology does not appear to know what has happened to the money; and people in west London, who were expecting to receive £12 million, do not know what has happened to the money. Flow can there be long-term planning for cancer care if there is no record of into which black hole the money has gone? Can the department publish figures showing how much has been spent by health authorities on cancer care and does it have plans to monitor what happens in the future? Does the Minister agree with Joanna Rule of the cancer charity, Bacup, that cancer care money should be spent on patients and not on balancing hospital books?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I believe that I answered that question in my first response. Currently, we are reviewing the outturn position for the previous financial year and the progress made. We know that we are making considerable progress in implementing the NHS Cancer Plan. We have seen a huge expansion of treatments; an increase in the number of consultants working in the cancer area; more women screened for breast cancer with the extension of the programme from 66 to 70 years of age; and 95 per cent of patients referred urgently with suspected cancer between January and March of this year being seen within two weeks. We are making considerable progress towards delivering the Cancer Plan.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, I confess an interest. My wife, who died of cancer, benefited from the hospice organisation. It appears that hospices do not receive the money. Can the Minister assure the House that the money is going to hospices which are an enormous help to people who face terminal cancer?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, that the voluntary palliative care movement in this country is a magnificent example of voluntary effort. I testify to the high quality of the services provided. Figures from the voluntary organisation, Help the Hospices, show that statutory funding for hospices has increased by about 14 per cent over the past two years. We have asked our local cancer networks to draw up service delivery plans on palliative care, including a review of the level of services offered. We have said that we shall increase NHS investment in palliative care—the cancer plan committed us to this—both in the NHS and in hospices by £50 million by 2004.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, in pressing the Minister on the outturn figures for 2000–01, I declare an interest as chairman of Cancer Research UK. When the figures are available, will my noble friend ensure that they are as transparent as possible. Perhaps he can look at the record of the Scottish Executive in that respect. A great deal of care has been taken to show on what money has been spent. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, there is concern that the money has seeped into the system or has been rebadged. If that is so, will the Minister undertake that the Government will make good the shortfall and see that money allocated to a subject is spent on that subject?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we are looking at the figures with great interest. When we see the final outturn, we shall study it with great care. If there are examples of health communities which have not spent the sufficient amount of resource, we shall take up that matter with the relevant strategic health authority. I reiterate that we have seen considerable progress over the past year or two. I believe that overall the NHS is highly committed to implement the plan.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, in connection with cancer research, will the Minister indicate whether he considers that the funds made available for that purpose are adequate, whether there are objectives for cancer research in relation to the main forms of cancer, and how quickly those objectives can be achieved?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Yes, my Lords, we have a strategy for investment of research into cancer. I am happy to provide more details to the noble Lord. On the matter of resources that are spent, my understanding is that the total UK government investment, including the devolved administrations, in the year 2000–01 was £190 million and that has to be set aside charity funding of around £180 million.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Scottish medicine consortium has recommended that Glyvec, a drug for chronic myeloid leukaemia, is to be made available to all Scottish sufferers, whereas the recommendation from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is that its use should be limited to patients only in an advanced stage of leukaemia? Is that a case of postcode prescribing? If so, what will the Government do about it?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, we have to accept that as health is a devolved function of the Scottish Parliament, inevitably that parliament will arrive at some different decisions. On the NICE guidance, my understanding is that the consultation period, in relation to its final guidance only, ends on the 13th of this month. Presently an appeal period will begin and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the specifics of the NICE judgment until the full process has been completed.

Lord Chan

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what cancer information is available to the public and, in particular, to members of ethnic minority communities?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, as part of the NHS Cancer Plan there was widespread recognition that we needed to improve the amount of information available to members of the public. Information is available through the NHS website and NHS Direct. In addition, we are developing a new set of information about screening for prostate cancer. In the summer we shall launch an officially informed choice project which will enable men to make informed choices about such screening.

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