Ed Miliband pledges that a Labour government would guarantee that NHS patients in England will wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020.
Announcing the next priorities for Labour’s £2.5bn NHS Time to Care Fund, he will declare his ambition for the health service to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe, which could save up to 10,000 lives a year.
The cancer package being announced today is part of Labour’s ten-year NHS Plan. It includes a commitment to raise the level of early cancer diagnosis – when treatment is more likely to be successful – with further public information campaigns, as well as ensuring GPs have the training and support they need to spot symptoms and refer patients speedily.
This is intended as a first step towards achieving one-week access to key tests for all urgent diagnostics by 2025, saving lives – and saving hundreds of millions a year in NHS costs for treating conditions diagnosed late.
The plan underscores the purpose of Labour’s NHS Time to Care Fund, which will make the investments needed to begin the transformation of the health service into one more focused on helping people stay in their communities through better support and prevention as well as on early diagnosis and treatment.
The cancer test guarantee will be made possible by £750 million new investment over five years, matched by revenue raised through a new levy on tobacco firms which make huge profits on the back of ill-health. Smoking is the largest single cause of premature preventable deaths in the UK.
As well as helping to improve early diagnosis, rapid access to cancer tests will ensure people diagnosed with the disease can start treatment earlier and will also help reduce the anxiety involved in waiting for a cancer test.
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.