Cancer Treatment during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic

I know that the Government is absolutely committed to supporting the NHS recovery from COVID-19, recognising the need to extend the record funding already provided.Over the next three years, £36 billion will be invested in the health and care system to ensure it has the appropriate long term resources. The elective backlog will be tackled with the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS's history and I am reassured that cancer patients will continue to be prioritised. I especially welcome the doubling of spending this year, to £2 billion, to start this important work. Additionally, more than £8 billion will be spent in the following three years from 2022-23 to 2024-25.

Cancer patients will absolutely benefit from these commitments, which could deliver the equivalent of around nine million more checks, scans and procedures. It will also mean the NHS in England can aim to deliver around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024-25 than it did before the pandemic. Additionally, I warmly welcome the commitment of £2.3 billion in the 2021 Spending Review to transform diagnostic services. This will support the opening of at least 100 community diagnostic centres across England benefitting millions of patients who will be able to access earlier diagnostic tests closer to home.

I wholeheartedly support the Government's commitment to building a bigger, better trained NHS workforce. In 2020/21, £260 million was provided to continue to support commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan, of which £52 million was provided to Health Education England to invest in the cancer and diagnostics workforce. It is encouraging that the 2021 Spending Review reaffirmed the Government’s commitments to recruiting 50,000 more nurses, providing hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding over the next four years.

Cancer is a priority for the Government and survival rates are at a record high. Since 2010 rates of survival from cancer have increased year-on-year.  Around 7,000 people are alive today who would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as then. I agree that we need to keep working on this, which is why I welcome the Government's stated aim to see three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028 (currently just over half are detected at an early stage). The plan will overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state-of-the-art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, and forms part of how the Government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028. I will continue to support the Government and the NHS to deliver on this, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

16/11/2021