The Labour Party will ensure that there are cancer diagnostic testing equipment available in GP surgeries in ‘every town’, Ed Miliband has announced today.
The latest election promise from the Labour leader will see a new investment of £150 million each year from 2016/17 in new diagnostic infrastructure to make it possible to do more tests directly in practices rather than having to wait for a hospital appointment.
Labour’s new Cancer Treatments Fund, which will be put in place in 2016, will help kick start the urgent replacement of ‘outdated’ radiotherapy machines, after a Labour investigation found 20% are older than 10 years – which is a breach of NHS guidance, Mr Miliband said.
The party said its plans come as official data shows that the number of patients waiting more than six weeks for cancer investigation following a GP referral has ‘increased four-fold’ since May 2010 while ‘hundreds of thousands’ wait over a month for test results.
The news comes as Mr Miliband yesterday announced plans to have GPs in every A&E department by next winter, as part of a ‘fully funded’ plan to improve the NHS via Labour’s plans for new taxes on high-value properties and tobacco companies.
Mr Miliband said: ‘Yesterday I set out our NHS rescue plan for our first 100 days, our first budget and our first year in office. Now I want to set out the next stage of our fully-funded plan, an investment of £150 million a year, every year in the key equipment patients need to get quick access to cancer tests and improve early diagnosis.
‘There can be nothing more worrying for patients and their families than waiting to hear if you have this terrible disease.’
He said that speeding up cancer tests will ‘help reduce the anxiety of waiting for a test result’, as well as improving early diagnosis, which ‘dramatically improves the chances of successful treatment while saving the NHS on the costs of late intervention’.
The equipment would be paid for through the mansion tax and a new levy on tobacco firms.
Last year, a report from Cancer Research UK said nearly half of people with cancer are diagnosed at a late stage partly because some GPs have poorer access to primary care diagnostics such as chest X-rays, blood tests, endoscopy and ultrasound.
The research found that 46% of all cancers diagnosed in England in 2012 were at stage three or four of the disease. Lung cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and ovarian cancers tended to be picked up the latest, with only 23-44% of these cancers picked up at stage one or two, whereas 93% of melanomas were diagnosed early, as were 83% of breast cancers and 61% of prostate cancers.
The findings come three years after the Department of Health (DH) launched its Cancer Strategy – which included a pledge to invest £450 million in giving GPs more direct access to diagnostic tests.