Government pledges faster, more comprehensive cancer care

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government has pledged to improve cancer care by reducing waiting times, improving access to treatment, and extending cervical, breast and bowel cancer screening services.

Gordon Brown said yesterday (September 24th) that the improvements would be part of a drive to make the NHS more "personal to you".

In his first party conference speech as party leader and Prime Minister, Mr Brown said: "On best medical advice, we will now extend the ages for breast cancer screening by six years, treat every suspected breast cancer as urgent and guarantee your consultant can fast track you.

"And we will also extend colon cancer screening right up the age scale into your 70s."

Mr Brown also pledged £15 billion of public money to finance "the genius of British researchers and doctors as they convert breakthroughs in genetics, stem cell research and new drugs into cures and vaccines to combat cancer and the deadliest of diseases".

Cancer Research UK has welcomed the extensions to national screening programmes and reductions in waiting times for referral.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "These will have a significant impact on survival from cancer, and we are delighted that the Government is responding to many of the calls we have been making in our Screening Matters campaign over the last few months.

"We hope that these announcements are just a forerunner to a series of other plans that the Government will soon announce as part of the Cancer Reform Strategy. It is critical that the Government also seeks to address the outlook for patients with less common cancers and those with poor survival outcomes.

"We also hope that the Government makes an urgent and substantial commitment to upgrading and investing in radiotherapy capacity in the UK."

National cancer director Professor Mike Richards confirmed that further steps will be detailed in the forthcoming Cancer Reform Strategy.

"Major progress has been made on tackling cancer in England over the past ten years and especially since publication of the NHS Cancer Plan in September 2000," he noted.

"When we publish the Cancer Reform Strategy later this year, we will go even further on improving cancer care in the NHS."