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If only brain tumour research could be funded in the same way as leukaemia and other cancers

House of Lords debate on the Health and Social Care Bill

We are a member of  the Cancer Campaigning Group which was mentioned in yesterday’s House of Lords debate on the Health and Social Care Bill.  Crossbench peer Baroness Morgan of Drefelin referred to the Group when speaking about commissioning of cancer services, highlighting our research in to the support needed to commission cancer services. 

The transcript is copied below. 

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My second point is on commissioning. We have heard a lot about commissioning, but I want to focus particularly on the commissioning of cancer services. We know that improving outcomes in cancer can be promoted only by collaboration and by commissioning across primary, secondary and tertiary services and public health, taking into account the need for high-quality research, because we know that patients do better when they are part of clinical trials.

For example, radiotherapy is a service that needs to be co-ordinated at regional and national levels, as it requires large planning populations and has a significant capital cost to be considered. In a recent report by the Cancer Campaigning Group, 81 per cent of GPs surveyed said that they believed that radiotherapy should be commissioned at a regional or national level, but is this what is going to be proposed? I still do not fully understand that.

Another example is the commissioning of pathology, which I am also concerned about. This issue is close to my heart because Breast Cancer Campaign has established the UK’s first tissue bank, which has been a huge endeavour. NHS pathologists have contributed to that, often in their own time, and have really gone the extra mile because they believed in making the project happen. How that will work going forward is of great concern. We rely on a lot of good will from NHS employees to make research possible in this country.

The Cancer Campaigning Group -whose membership includes over 50 charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support, the Prostate Cancer Charity and Cancer Research UK, which I have already mentioned-has argued very strongly for the vital role that cancer networks must play, which must be maintained. The Government have listened to these arguments and made funding available to fund and support cancer networks, which are a vital source of expertise and drive in promoting improved quality in cancer services, but that is only until 2013. I hope that the Minister will be able to set out how the Government intend to guarantee the best future for cancer networks going forward.

I know that there are implications for other disease areas, too. I would be particularly interested to hear the Minister’s thoughts on how to ensure that networks receive sufficient funding, have the capacity to commission high-quality cancer care for patients at all stages of their cancer journey and have a suitable accountability structure. I would also like to hear about how their role can work in supporting patient involvement. I am happy for the Minister to write to me in response, because I have a feeling that he may have a lot of points to come on to later. We have all seen real improvements in cancer care in recent years in this country, which has been driven largely through collaboration and integration, and we need to understand how that can go forward.

In my last point, I want to say something quickly about patient involvement, which I believe is fundamental to improving the quality of care. “No decision about me without me” sounds great, but I understand that the assessment of the Richmond Group of patient-led health charities is that this principle has not yet been fully adopted in the context of NHS service design and planning processes. To do that would mean that the duties on commissioning bodies and Monitor to obtain advice in discharging their functions should be further extended to more fully encompass patient involvement.

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