Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey today called for a new legal right for cancer patients to start treatment within two months of an urgent referral, as part of a five-year plan to boost survival rates.
Ed Davey, who lost both his parents to cancer as a child, made the plan the centrepiece of his keynote speech to the party’s Conference in Bournemouth.
Ed Davey used his speech to highlight the Conservative Government’s neglect of cancer, with waiting time targets consistently missed and ministers ditching their promised ‘Ten-Year Cancer Plan’.
The Liberal Democrats are putting health at the heart of their campaign to win seats off the Conservatives in the Blue Wall at the next election. The new policy builds on existing plans such as introducing a right to see a GP within a week and expanding NHS dentistry so people aren’t forced to pay for private dental treatment.
Five-Year Cancer Plan
- 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.
The party has set out proposals to invest an extra £4 billion in NHS cancer treatment over the next five years to deliver this plan and improve survival rates by the end of the next Parliament.
The two-month target has been a government pledge since 2000, but hasn’t been met since 2015 and has never been written into law. More than 72,000 patients or two in five were left waiting more than two months to start treatment in the last year, as NHS waiting lists soar to a new record high.