Campaign Response: #CatchUpWithCancer

I have been contacted by constituents regarding #CatchUpWithCancer.

As the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, I have included below my response:

As you may be aware, when people start treatment for cancer, their medical team works with them to balance the risks and benefits of treatment before agreeing a plan. As a result of the pandemic, it may be that doctors consider the risks of certain treatments, particularly those that weaken the immune system, to be much greater than normal. They will take into consideration how urgent the treatment is: in some cases, delaying treatment might not make a big difference to the outcome. Patients with cancer visit hospitals regularly, but for those who are particularly vulnerable, this is more risky than usual as it may result in exposure to the virus.

The NHS is open for business, even during the time of national lockdown, and anyone who needs care and treatment should continue to access it as and when they need it, especially when delays could impose both an immediate and a long-term risk to health.

In particular, I welcome that the Government has already announced £3 billion funding to support the NHS recovery from COVID-19, to help to ease existing pressures and enable hospitals to carry out extra checks, scans, and other operations or procedures. This will help to ensure that cancer patients are able to access the care that they need as safely and quickly as possible.

I want to reassure you that cancer treatment is a priority for the Government. Since 2010, rates of survival from cancer have increased year-on-year with around 7,000 people are alive today who would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as then. However, I know that we need to keep working on this, which is why I welcome the Government's stated aim to see three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028. The plan will overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state-of-the-art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), published in January 2019, and forms part of how the Government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028.

It is worth noting, one of the measures outlined in the NHS LTP is safer and more precise treatment, including advanced radiotherapy techniques and immunotherapies to continue to support improvements in survival rates. This will be supported by a £130 million upgrade of radiotherapy machines across England, as well as commissioning the NHS new state-of-the-art Proton Beam facilities in London and Manchester. In addition, the LTP commits to reforms to the specialised commissioning payments for radiotherapy hypofractionation to support further equipment upgrades. Faster, smarter and effective radiotherapy, supported by greater networking of specialised expertise, will mean more patients are offered curative treatment, with fewer side effects and shorter treatment times. Starting with ovarian cancer, the NHS will ensure greater access to specialist expertise and knowledge in the treatment of cancers where there are fewer or more risky treatment options.

I will continue to support the Government and the NHS to deliver on this, in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Any changes to treatment protocol to ensure patients are treated safely should be carried out in full consultation with patients, to ensure that they fully understand the reasoning behind any changes made in line with guidance from clinical experts.

Should you have any specific concerns that I can raise on your behalf, with the relevant Minister, please let me know.