To mark World Cancer Day, which falls on 4th February each year, last week I met with Radiotherapy 4 Life in Parliament in support of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.
I was pleased to attend not only as a proud Vice Chair of the Radiotherapy All-Party Parliamentary Group but on behalf of those Crawley residents who wrote to me asking that I take part, and in support of all those locally currently undergoing cancer treatment.
I know that even if they have not undergone radiotherapy themselves, many people will know a friend or family member who has. Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells, and may be used in the early stages of cancer or after it has started to spread.
While radiotherapy is seen as the most effective cancer treatment after surgery, it does of course vary from person to person.
Government has set a target of no more than 15 per cent of cancer patients in England waiting longer than the recommended 62 day wait between the date the hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of the treatment.
Ensuring access to radiotherapy treatment is vital and is a cause I have continued to highlight in Parliament. Shortly before Christmas, the Health & Social Care Minister confirmed to me that approximately £162 million has been invested to replace or upgrade 100 radiotherapy machines since 2016.
I welcome the Department of Health & Social Care reiterating that this work is continuing, with the NHS England capacity and demand review of external beam radiotherapy capacity to be completed in 2022-23.
Here in Crawley we are of course the home of the UK base of Elekta oncology. Last year in Parliament I was pleased to champion their innovation and received assurances at the despatch box from the Business Minister over Government backing for research and development to support such work.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our NHS are still acutely felt and this needs to continue to be addressed. NHS England has a target in place for systems to increase cancer treatment capacity by 13 per cent. This is to account for the natural cancer incidence group as well as any remaining patients who may not have come forward during the pandemic, with the vital aim of cutting waiting lists.
In recent weeks the Government confirmed approval of Crawley as the location of one of 19 new Community Diagnostic Centres. This new facility will see patients benefit from quicker access to treatment and lifesaving diagnostic tests close to home.
Ensuring this Government’s record funding for the NHS gets to where it is needed is a cause I continue to pursue.
Henry Smith MP