The Liberal Democrats are calling for a new legal right for cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, as part of a plan to boost survival rates and improve treatment for those affected by the disease.
The latest NHS figures show that, in the last year, 502 cancer patients in the Royal United Hospitals Bath Trust area waited more than 62 days to start treatment after being referred. This means only 69% of patients in the area were treated within two months, below the government target of 85%.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey used his Autumn Conference speech to set out proposals to invest an extra £4 billion in NHS cancer treatment over the next five years.
The Liberal Democrat plan includes new radiotherapy machines, cutting the time for new medicines to reach patients, a new cancer research law, and better support for cancer patients and their families.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, commented:
“Everyone knows someone whose life has been turned upside down by cancer.
“Far too many people are still waiting, far too long for a diagnosis, or to start treatment after being diagnosed. We must do right by them and get them the care they need when they need it.
“The Liberal Democrats would give cancer patients a new legal right to treatment within two months of an urgent referral, to make sure they get the care they deserve.”
NHS statistics on cancer waiting times are available here.
Ed Davey’s keynote speech can be found here.
The Liberal Democrats’ five-year cancer plan includes:
Two-month cancer treatment guarantee. A new target for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral, with this right written into law. Currently this is only a government pledge, and 40% of patients wait longer than 62 days.
Boost access to radiotherapy. Replace ageing radiotherapy machines and increase their number, as well as widening access so that no one has to travel too far for treatment.
Halve the time for new treatments to reach patients. It takes an average of 11 months for a new medicine or medical technology to be approved and available to patients in England, compared to just 4 months in Germany. We will expand the MHRA’s capacity to speed up that process.
Pass a Cancer Survival Research Act. New legislation modelled on the US law signed by President Obama in 2013. It would require the Government to coordinate and ensure funding for research into the cancers with the lowest survival rates, including lung, liver, brain and pancreatic cancer.
Save the National Cancer Research Institute. The Government is presiding over the closure of the National Cancer Research Institute, which was established in 2001 and plays a vital role in coordinating cancer research, due to uncertainty over research funding. Its closure has been described by one oncology professor as like “turning off air traffic control and hoping the planes will be fine”.
Improve support for patients and their families. Recruit more cancer nurses so that every patient has a dedicated specialist supporting them throughout their treatment. Ensure patients and their families are given information about charities, patient support groups and financial support at every key stage: referral, diagnosis and starting treatment.