On Friday (23rd November) I led a House of Commons debate on our Health Service ahead of the upcoming NHS Long-Term Plan publication.
Included in the priorities for this plan are improvements to cancer care and patient outcomes, and enhanced access to mental health services.
Both of these are key to improving support provided to blood cancer patients, such as those I have met in Crawley, and indeed all of the approximate 240,000 people in the UK with one of the 137 types of this condition.
A point I raised during my debate was the role of GPs. In terms of access, this is something which affects each and every one of us, which is why I pressed upon the Health Minister the need for enhanced resources to enable patients to access their GP, not on the other side of town, but at their local surgery.
Blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, claiming around 15,000 lives each year. In order to reduce this we must ensure earlier diagnosis of the condition. By giving GPs more assistance to detect blood cancer, we can reduce the number of visits to a doctor that patients need before diagnosis.
After diagnosis, some patients do not receive treatment straight away. Around 13 per cent of patients - some 27,000 people - in the UK are on 'Watch and Wait', which occurs if their doctor does not believe there is an added benefit to starting treatment right away. I continue to lobby the Government to ensure patients and their families in this situation receive the necessary psychological support.
There are ongoing developments in terms of improving blood cancer treatments. CAR-T therapy in particular offers a more personalised method of finding and killing cancer cells, which could offer a chance of long-term survival or even a cure for those with certain hard-to-treat blood cancers.
As Blood Cancer All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair, I continue the call I made earlier this year in a Commons question to the Prime Minister; the Government must ensure a continued focus on blood cancer awareness, diagnosis and prevention.
Henry Smith MP