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As part of the implementation of the strategy, a small working group has been set up by the national cancer action team to look into the role and contribution of nurses across cancer services. The group will look at the outcomes required across tumour type pathways and
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the competences required to deliver them. The national cancer action team is now funding a survey of clinical nurse specialists.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax rightly raised the issue of collecting data. Collecting data on the number of those diagnosed and living with secondary breast cancer is the second priority. The national cancer intelligence network, which was launched in June, will build, maintain and quality-assure a new repository of national cancer data. That will help patients to make choices about their treatment, enable hospital teams to identify areas of weakness and encourage commissioners to seek improvements in quality where necessary. We are working hard to help the NCIN collect those data in a timely manner, and its first annual report is scheduled for publication in 2009.

The need for high quality patient information is another priority. Ensuring that all patients have access to high quality information and support is a key part of the pledge that we made to cancer patients in the strategy. The strategy sets out a number of initiatives to improve patient support services for those living with and, of course, beyond cancer. Those initiatives include: ensuring that patients receive high quality personalised information throughout their—as it is described in the strategy—cancer journey on issues such as cancer treatment, local and national support services, and, importantly, financial benefits; working with cancer professionals in the NHS to improve their communication skills when dealing with patients; the establishment of a new national cancer survivorship initiative; and monitoring progress on improving patient experience through annual surveys, which will include the views of secondary breast cancer patients.

I have listened to many of the women involved and, along with my hon. Friend, pay tribute to their courage and commitment. Even when they have not felt well enough to attend, they have bravely done so. We have made good progress on the national initiatives to improve information delivery and communication skills training since the publication of the strategy. That is so important. We all think that we are getting it right, but then we listen to the patient experience and discover that some things are still lacking. Therefore, the commitment to professional development and training is of the utmost importance.

The national cancer action team is working closely with cancer networks and charities to roll out national information pathways, and this is being linked to pilot work on information prescriptions. I take note of what my hon. Friends have said this evening—particularly about the culture and how the older woman is affected—and can now see that it is fed into the information pathway. National patient information pathways for bowel, lung, prostate and breast cancers were launched in July. They are nationally agreed sources of information that will be available for clinicians and clinical nurse specialists to give to patients at each stage of their cancer journey, including information for women with secondary breast cancer.

Improved access to psychological services for all secondary breast cancer patients and their families is the fourth priority. Once again, we recognise that that can be as important as any other aspect of treatment, and we have stated that commissioners will need to ensure that adequate provision is available so that all
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patients, and their families, friends and carers, can access the appropriate psychological support that they need. When a person is informed of a second diagnosis, they require different support. All the clinical people involved in the care of patients with a secondary diagnosis are aware that, sometimes, that support is not adequate. Everyone is trying to ensure that the psychological support is available, not only for the patient, but for family members.

Improved management of secondary breast cancer patient care is the fifth priority. I can confirm that the management of active cancer has been identified as a workstream to be taken forward as part of the new national cancer survivor initiative.

Cancer services remain a high priority for this Government, and my hon. Friends have praised the work that our clinicians and NHS staff have done. We have seen changes and significant improvements in cancer services in the past 10 years, especially since the publication of the NHS cancer plan in 2000. Our achievements include: extending breast screening to women aged up to 70; the roll-out of the bowel cancer screening programme; a reduction in waiting times for patients with suspected cancer; more cancer specialists—that is absolutely critical to the strategy, and there are more than 1,655 extra
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consultants in this area since 1997; and cancer mortality in under-75s fell by more than 18 per cent. between 1996 and 2006. We are on course to meet our target of a reduction of at least 20 per cent. in cancer deaths in under-75s by 2010. The public health and awareness agenda that all of us must take account of will make a significant difference to that figure.

That does not mean that we are complacent. We face significant challenges when dealing with cancer services for people with secondary cancer. We have opportunities to deliver further improvements through the strategy, which was developed with the help of more than 1,000 groups and individuals. It is very much an inclusive and involved strategy, which I believe was welcomed by all the cancer charities and patients who are not associated with them. We value the work of Breast Cancer Care and all other cancer charities, and look forward to continuing to work with them through the various strategy initiatives to improve the experience of all cancer patients, including, of course, those with secondary breast cancer. We owe that to those women and their families, and the NHS wants to deliver it.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at two minutes to Nine o’clock.

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