Cancer: 16th April 2013

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con)
3. What steps his Department is taking to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer. [150765]

Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
8. What steps his Department is taking to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer. [150771]

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
12. What steps his Department is taking to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer. [150775]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry)
It would take me a very long time to give all the details of the Department’s work. In short, we have run a number of specific campaigns, both locally and regionally, to deal with a number of cancers. We will now evaluate whether those pilots have been successful. What I can say is that, such is the success of the lung cancer campaign, we will be recommissioning it in July.

Eric Ollerenshaw
I thank the Minister for that reply. May I raise, in particular, the issue of poor outcomes in pancreatic and prostate cancer? The problem we face is how to achieve the earlier diagnosis that is needed by GPs, so that we can achieve better outcomes in terms of international comparisons.

Anna Soubry
It was a great pleasure to meet my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) to discuss prostate and pancreatic cancer. Those cancers are difficult because often the symptoms are not obvious. The “Know 4 sure” campaign highlights some of the ​symptoms associated with them. We are evaluating this matter, and if we think that there is benefit in a campaign specifically on those cancers, we will run it.

Steve Brine
The Minister will be aware that the all-party group on breast cancer, which I co-chair, is holding an inquiry into older people and breast cancer, starting this afternoon. We look forward to seeing her there. What plans do the Government have to ensure that everyone affected by breast cancer, regardless of their age, is diagnosed at the earliest possible stage?

Anna Soubry
I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend and all those involved with the all-party group—I am indeed looking forward to this afternoon’s session. I particularly commend the group’s work on targeting women over 70. Again, we have run a pilot campaign on that and are evaluating the results, and if there is value in it, it will be rolled out in order to bring huge benefits.

Fiona Bruce
Given the link between smoking and cancer and the fact that 70% of smokers start before they are 18 and 94% before they are 25, what consideration have the Government given to introducing plain packaging in order to drive down the number of young people attracted to smoking in the first place?
Anna Soubry
We are considering what has been a huge consultation, but I must correct my hon. Friend—I am in no way criticising her—because it is not plain packaging, but what we call standardised packaging. If, like me, hon. Members were to see the cigarette packets now issued in Australia, they would realise that they are far from plain. Some would say that they are a counterfeiter’s nightmare, not a charter for counterfeiters.
John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab)
People remember the massive improvements in cancer care services under Labour. Now, more and more people are having to wait longer and longer for those crucial diagnostic cancer tests, when they might be worried sick about what they will have to face. Is the Minister happy that more people are waiting longer and what is she doing now to cut those waiting times?

Anna Soubry
We have invested £450 million in improving exactly the matter that the right hon. Gentleman raises, and I do not share his analysis one bit.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
As well as raising awareness of cancer, will the Minister clarify whether this new list of 28 prescribed drugs produced by the NHS Commissioning Board will increase access to the cancer drugs fund?

Anna Soubry
What I know is that the cancer drugs fund is delivering in a way that, if I may say so, was not delivered under the last Administration.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP)
What discussions have taken place with Health ministerial colleagues in devolved Administrations on the need to share best practice in diagnosis, analysis of biopsies and future treatments and care for those suffering from different forms and types of cancer?

Anna Soubry
We are always open to discuss anything that can improve outcomes for anybody suffering from cancer, and certainly we are alert to all new research. As I said, if that involves talking to devolved Administrations, my officials do that in order to improve outcomes for people in England.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con)
Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the most effective treatments in reducing the impact of prostate cancer is traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, and does she agree that it is crucial that we get the regulation of herbal practitioners in place as soon as we can?

Anna Soubry
All these things have to be evidence-based. I am reminded of the evidence that the chief medical officer gave recently on this subject.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
A freedom of information survey by Labour showed that cancer networks saw their funding cut by 26% between 2010 and 2013 and lost 20% of their work force over the same period, losing vital skills and expertise along the way, despite repeated reassurances from the Government that funding for clinical networks would be protected. Even more shockingly, all this is happening at a time when the Department of Health has handed back £2.2 billion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. How can the Minister justify handing vital NHS funding back to the Treasury when cancer networks are being cut, specialist staff and skills are being lost and thousands of nurses are being axed?

Anna Soubry
I think that that was about four questions in one, but I would certainly dispute all that has been said. Let me make this absolutely clear: we know that there was great success in the cancer networks, which is why we have extended them, so that they now include, for example, dementia and mental health, and far from cutting the overall money going to all the strategic networks, we have increased it by 27%.