We all know someone who's been affected by cancer, and around half of us will experience it ourselves. That's why Labour's new pledge on cancer testing is so important.
As part of our plan to save and strengthen our NHS, a Labour government will guarantee that by 2020 nobody will have to wait longer than a week for access to cancer tests and the results. That's an amazing committment of which I'm incredibly proud; it'll save lives.
Waits for cancer tests are currently increasing, with the number waiting more than six weeks for key tests used to diagnose cancer up from 1,900 in May 2010 to over 10,600 in August 2014. Early diagnosis and treatment has a big effect on long-term prognosis, and it also saves money for as treatment in the later stages of cancer is more expensive. These savings will contribute to better care, including prevention.
In real terms those Tory cuts have totaled around £790m in real terms from spending on cancer services since they took office. That speaks for itself.
What we'll do:
a) A one week cancer test guarantee.
By 2020, we will guarantee a maximum one-week wait for cancer tests, with results – on route to a goal of one-week tests for all urgent diagnostics by 2025.
We will start with a focus on those tests for which experts say there are particularly important benefits, such as chest x-ray for lung cancer, abdominal ultrasound for ovarian cancer and endoscopy for bowel cancer, before broadening the guarantee out to a wider set of tests. We will ask clinicians and experts to advise on the specific set of tests and the priorities for implementation.
Speeding up diagnosis will have several benefits, including helping people get treatment quicker and reducing the anxiety around waiting for a cancer test result.
b) Better public awareness and encouragement to go to the GP.
A new round of public awareness campaigns to help the public recognise cancer symptoms and encourage them to go to their GP if they think they have relevant symptoms.
c) Better access to ensure the public can get to see their GP.
We will give people the right to a GP appointment within 48 hours, or on the same day if they need it, as well as the right to book ahead with the GP of their choice, which is particularly important to improve continuity of care.
Research has found that patients who are able to see their GPs within 48 hours are less likely to have their initial cancer diagnosis via an emergency hospital admission.
In addition, we have committed to 8,000 more GPs by 2020, which will help improve access and ensure doctors get more time with their patients.
d) Better support and training for GPs to spot cancer and commission tests.
Spotting the signs of cancer is challenging: there are more than 200 different types of cancer, some with vague symptoms and GPs will see on average less than eight new cancer cases a year. We will encourage the use of proven risk-assessment tools for cancer diagnosis in GP surgeries, and ensure GPs have access to the training and support they need to diagnose cancer.
e) Improved screening programmes.
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