§ Mr. Coaker
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of regional variations in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Yvette Cooper
We are aware of regional variations in the diagnosis, treatment and survival of cancers, including prostate cancer. Data have been published in the report by the Office For National Statistics "Cancer Survival Trends" which provides evidence that cancer survival in adults in England and Wales is generally lower among patients in more deprived groups than those in more affluent groups. Equity of access was a founding principle of the National Health Service and is central to 137W Government policy. It is one of the main aims of the new health strategy set out in the White Paper "Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation".
Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, will spearhead the drive to modernise all aspects of cancer care, including addressing regional variations in survival rates. His role will be to ensure people in this country have faster, fairer cancer care. He will work in partnership with doctors, nurses, general practitioners, other health professionals and the voluntary sector to improve prevention and modernise cancer services to help ensure equitable access to high-quality cancer care.
By December 2000 all urgent GP referrals of suspected prostate cancer should be seen by a consultant within two weeks of referral. Work is under way to develop national standards and performance indicators for rollout from April 2000, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence will be commissioning outcomes guidance on four further cancer sites over the next two years. Urological cancers (including prostate cancer) will be the first of these.