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28 Oct 2002 : Column 655Wcontinued
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the number of cancer patients awaiting radiotherapy treatment but not included on official NHS waiting lists. 
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Ms Blears: The Department has received a number of informal representations about waiting times for radiotherapy. In order to tackle radiotherapy waiting times, we are making unprecedented investment in new radiotherapy facilities, streamlining care processes through the cancer services collaborative and working to best utilise the current workforce and to increase the number of staff in post and in training.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the effectiveness of new systems for logging data relating to cancer treatment introduced under the NHS cancer plan; and if he will make a statement on these systems. 
Ms Blears: No representations have been received. Monitoring the national health service cancer plan targets robustly and effectively requires the ability to track information across the patient pathway of care, from urgent general practitioner referral for suspected cancer, to their first definitive treatment. The Department, in collaboration with the NHS information authority, is developing a national database so that this data can be collated nationally and locally. The database is currently undergoing user testing in the NHS prior to general introduction.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the waiting list for breast cancer was for each month since September 2002; and how many breast cancer patients were tested to ascertain their suitability for a NICE-approved treatment for each of these months; 
(3) what the waiting lists for breast cancer were for each month since September 2000; and how many leukaemia patients were tested to ascertain their suitability for a NICE-approved treatment in each of these months. 
The cancer plan sets out waiting times targets for cancer treatment that will be implemented over the next five years. By 2005, all cancer patients will wait a maximum of one month from diagnosis to treatment and a maximum of two months from urgent general practitioner referral to treatment. We are currently developing systems to monitor performance against this target.
In addition, a new target of one month from diagnosis to first treatment for breast cancer was introduced in December 2001. Central monitoring of performance against this target began in January 2002 with data being collected quarterly. The table shows quarterly performance against this target.
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|Quarter 4 200102||94.2|
|Quarter 1 200203||94.4|
The Department does not collect information about the suitability of patients for specific treatments. The responsibility for arranging tests and deciding what treatment is best for the patient rests with the clinicians concerned. This is done in consultation with the patient and is informed by the patient's clinical history. Relevant guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence would also be taken into account. Discussions between patients and clinicians about suitable treatments are confidential.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer since 1992; and how this compares with other (a) Commonwealth and (b) EU countries; 
(3) what assessment he has made of the number of people diagnosed with (a) breast cancer, (b) ovarian cancer, (c) leukaemia, (d) prostate cancer and (e) lung cancer since 1992; and how this compares with other (i) Commonwealth and (ii) EU countries; 
(4) what assessment he has made of the number of people diagnosed with prostate cancer since 1992; and how this compares with other (a) Commonwealth and (b) EU countries. 
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Ms Blears: The NHS cancer plan set out new goals to reduce waiting times for cancer treatment. The ultimate goal is that no one should wait longer than one month from an urgent general practitioner referral for suspected cancer to the beginning of treatment except for a good clinical reason or through patient choice.
The first step in reducing cancer waiting times was the introduction of the two week waiting time standard from urgent general practitioner (GP) referral to out-patient appointment for cases of suspected breast cancer from April 1999. The two week standard was extended to all other urgent cases of suspected cancer during 2000.
From December 2001 targets of a one month maximum wait from diagnosis to first treatment for breast cancer and a one month maximum wait from urgent general practitioner referral to first treatment for children's cancers, testicular cancer and acute leukaemia were introduced. By 2005 the target of a maximum two month wait from urgent GP referral to first treatment and a one-month wait from diagnosis to first treatment for will cover all cancers.
Ms Blears: The Department has received a number of informal representations about the expansion of the cancer workforce. The national cancer director works closely with cancer networks, professional organisations and workforce development confederations to ensure that national decisions about workforce planning reflect the needs of the service. The table shows good progress in increasing the number of doctors working in cancer services. This increase means the national health service is on track to hit the target set out in the cancer plan of nearly 1,000 extra cancer consultants by 2006.
|All Cancer specialties||3,360||3,860|
Department of Health medical and dental workforce census
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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations his Department has received concerning the transparency of cancer fund allocation within NHS health authorities in England and Wales; 
(3) what procedures are in place to ensure that funds awarded for cancer services within NHS health authorities in England and Wales are distributed accordingly and not allocated to other areas of health care. 
Ms Blears: The Department and the national cancer director, Professor Mike Richards, have received both formal and informal representations about cancer funding from national health service and voluntary organisations as well as individual clinicians and managers providing cancer care. Professor Richards is working with chief executives of strategic health authorities to ensure that the money gets through to cancer services and that cancer plan targets are met.
We are devolving power from the centre to locally run services, to allow the freedom to innovate and improve care for patients. The increased resources that we have made available and will continue to make available to support the implementation of the cancer plan will move to the NHS frontline. Primary care trusts will have freedom to decide where NHS resources are best spent, but they will need to account publicly for how they have used resources against the test of high clinical standards and good value for money.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the effectiveness of the peer review teams introduced under the NHS Cancer Plan. 
Ms Blears: The Department has received a number of informal comments about the 200001 peer review process. A formal evaluation of the peer review process has been commissioned. Decisions about the future of the process will take all these views into consideration.
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