|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Dr. Jones: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. I was trying to rush through the point, but the Committee was told time and again that it would be very difficult to get the express permission of patients. That is why we recommended that patient confidentiality should not necessarily apply in the case of cancer registration.
Local interpretations of the legislation are causing considerable problems. When they responded to our report, the Government said that they would respond early this year to the review being carried out by Professor Gillis. However, that already represented a shift in time scale from the original promise contained in the NHS plan, which was that a response to the review would be available by autumn last year.
When my hon. Friend the Minister responds to the debate, I hope that she will spend some time describing how the Government will deal with that problem. I know that the chief medical officer has written articles in the British Medical Journal emphasising the importance of cancer registration.
Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): I am very pleased to have caught your eye in this very important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Dr. Clark) on this excellent report. It will make a sizeable and significant contribution to the alleviation of suffering experienced by people with cancer. In addition, the timeliness of the Government's response is helpful.
I want to suggest some alternative resources that may be useful to the Government and to everyone involved in caring for cancer patients. My approach may be a little oblique for some people in mainstream medicine, as I am the long-standing treasurer of the parliamentary group on alternative and complementary medicine. I may not have the length of service in the House of my hon. Friends the Members for Rayleigh or for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson)--the latter entered the House in 1970--but I have served as treasurer of that group during three Parliaments.
In that time, there has been a complete change in the approach to some complementary therapies. I want to suggest that the shortage of resources could be alleviated by looking afresh at some of the therapies that are available, and by thinking slightly differently about how they can be used.
When I entered the House in 1987, chiropractic and osteopathy were thought by many doctors to be pretty much off the wall. If they did not get the evil eye, patients who told their doctors that they had been to a chiropractor or osteopath would certainly receive a ticking off.
That has changed. Osteopaths are now regulated by legislation. Passage of the relevant legislation covering osteopaths and chiropractors took place over two Parliaments, and I sat on both the Standing Committees scrutinising the proposals. Disciplines that were once regarded as suspect are now part of mainstream medicine, but there is great scope for that process to be taken further.
In that regard, publication of the Select Committee report, and of the report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on complementary and alternative medicine, has helped the Government tremendously. In addition, an early-day motion supporting that House of Lords report has been signed by nearly 160 hon. Members of various persuasions, some of whom are in the Chamber today.
As I said, I want to focus on resources. The report emphasises the problems of availability--of personnel, drugs, equipment, technicians and communications. Recommendation (c) talks of an "over-stretched service" and of the need for a "fast-track system". Recommendation (f) speaks of the need for an increase in the number of specialist surgeons, and recommendation (g) of "service problems in . . . delivery". Recommendation (h) talks about drugs "only available to some" and recommendation (i) talks of the need for additional funding for NICE-approved treatments. Recommendation (g) talks about the shortage of key personnel.
There are shortages of key personnel--don't we know it?--but there are other personnel who are not referred to by name in the report but who are available. Recommendation (m) is specifically about complementary and alternative medicine. It says:
As the Government try to tackle the problem of cancer, the additional resources available to them include about 50,000 complementary therapists--homeopaths, herbalists, phytotherapists and traditional Chinese medical practitioners. In addition--perhaps parallel to those therapies--there are about 50,000 healers who channel energy. I have had some experience of their work and seen them working with cancer patients. I know that some hon. Members may feel that the idea of someone making a difference by transmitting energy flow through their hands is off the wall--that is what some hon. Members thought about osteopathy in 1987. However, the use of healers will develop. More and more people are learning to heal and there will be a greater opportunity for its use in the health service.
Some years ago I had the great opportunity of travelling on a lecture tour with Dr. Rosie Daniel. Dr. Daniel ran the Bristol cancer health clinic. Many patients who could not be treated by conventional means or who had received conventional treatment but whose cases were not satisfactorily resolved would call on the clinic for help--
One of the ways in which the clinic helped cancer patients was to look at their diet. One of the ways of alleviating the problems of cancer patients is a greater insistence on the need for a carefully controlled diet. The Gerson diet is well known for offering relief to cancer patients. At clinics such as Bristol, a range of therapies are on offer. I hope that the Minister will respond soon to the Lords report and that we can move further towards an integrated health care system. It is to be hoped that it will not only be osteopathy and chiropractic that can come in from the cold, but we will find a much greater use of other disciplines, such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy and aromatherapy. I should like to focus on those three therapies.
I have some experience of traditional Chinese medicine. I have talked at length to representatives from Peking university who are pioneering their brand of traditional medicine in the United Kingdom. They believe that they can help cancer patients in two specific ways. I know that there are many distinguished doctors in the House and they can interrupt if they feel that I am misguiding hon. Members, but I do not think that I am. The first method is by using traditional herbs, which will boost the organs of the body, and the second is by using acupuncture. An experienced acupuncturist can dramatically increase the energy flow to different organs in the body. One aspect of Chinese medicine that I find fascinating is the way that internal organs are linked to different limbs. For example, the kidneys perhaps have some influence on bone repair, and energy can be increased through the kidney meridians. Traditional Chinese medicine has had and will continue to have a considerable success rate with cancer patients. I am suggesting not that it should be used as an alternative but that it could be used to complement other therapies.
Homeopathic remedies are also useful. I will not go into detail now because I am aware that time is short. I have just received a friendly note from a friendly Whip telling me to sit down and shut up. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) that I do not need to read it because I know what it says. One does not need to be psychic when my hon. Friend is on the Bench. He has often helped me during my contributions, as all Lord Commissioners do. [Interruption.] Although my hon. Friend is not yet a Lord Commissioner, we look forward to the day when he will be, after we return to government.
Some of the complementary therapies that are classified by the Lords report as needing further research offer a lot to cancer patients. Aromatherapy can offer a great deal of relief. The use of simple oils can alleviate mood and have a beneficial effect, not least in preparing patients for operations.
Following the help from my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold, I shall come towards the end of my remarks by saying that there is one other group of people who should be looked at with great care from the point of view of solving cancer problems. The healers or energy specialists--call them what you like--are trained to transfer, through their hands, energy of their own or from some other source. I have looked at healers at work in two prisons in Britain and seen how they can change the mood of dangerous prisoners. I have talked at length with
There have been many trials on healing and there are always calls for more. The work of Matthew Manning was studied in great depth. Uri Geller, who is known for using energy to bend spoons, can also use energy to heal. There have been many reports showing that healing is an effective treatment. The Minister might want to take to heart the fact that many groups, including the National Federation of Spiritual Healers, do not charge at all. It is a free service and, when trying to square the circle of funding and resources for cancer care, I hope that the Minister will consider that. I hope that she will also bear it in mind when responding to the Lords report and in her winding-up speech today. I apologise to the Minister for the fact that, sadly, I will not be present for the end of the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold is again encouraging me to bring my speech to an end. He may have a word with me later in the Smoking Room--one never knows one's luck with a Whip. Complementary therapy has come a long way in 13 years. That which was right off the wall is now in mainstream use. There are many other disciplines that should be included in mainstream NHS provision, as many of them could help cancer patients. I have highlighted traditional Chinese medicine and the healing movement. I commend those practitioners to the House and hope that better use will be made of their services.