Thank you to those who contacted me about bowel cancer awareness and diagnosis. I sympathise profoundly with anybody who has been affected by bowel cancer and I pay tribute to Bowel Cancer UK in its ambition to drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment.
Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival and I believe that investment in local screening programmes can make a real difference. Evidence from Beating Bowel Cancer shows that, when diagnosis is made early, bowel cancer can be cured in over 90% of cases.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme for 60-69 year olds was rolled out between July 2006 and December 2010, in which time over 7,000 cancers were detected. Bowel Scope Screening (BSS), an additional one-off examination for men and women aged 55, is being rolled out across the country. However, I am concerned that current guidance from NHS England states that BSS may not be offered in certain areas of England.
At the General Election, Labour's manifesto pledged to tackle the rationing of services across England, and to take action to address 'postcode lotteries' to ensure that the quality of care an individual receives does not depend on which part of the country they are from. More widely, the manifesto pledged an extra £30 billion for the NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need, and to guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks. However we did not win the election.
The Cancer Strategy for England, published by the Independent Cancer Taskforce in July 2015, aims to improve cancer outcomes and strongly emphasises the need to increase uptake in screening and improve early diagnosis. I am disappointed that, in its response to the strategy, the Government has not fully committed to the extra investment the strategy says it needs to establish a National Diagnostic Fund.
Without additional funding, patient care could suffer as a result. Early diagnosis must be a priority for any good cancer service: it is better for the NHS and it is better for patients.