A number of constituents have contacted me about cancer and what more we can do to tackle this disease that affects so many people. Having lost my mother and my first wife to cancer, I know what it feels like to see those you love trying to fight it.
Our ambition for the health service is to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe, which could save up to 10,000 lives a year. To do this we want to raise the level of early cancer diagnosis - when treatment is more likely to be successful - with further public information campaigns, as well as ensuring that GPs have the training and support they need to spot symptoms and refer patients speedily. Labour will guarantee one week access to cancer tests and results by 2020, which will help save lives and hundreds of millions a year in NHS costs for treating conditions diagnosed late. This is intended to be the first step towards achieving one week access to urgent diagnostic tests by 2025.
The plan underscores the purpose of Labour's NHS Time to Care Fund, which will make the investments needed to begin the transformation of the health service into one more focused on helping people stay in their communities through better support and prevention as well as on early diagnosis and treatment. The cancer test guarantee will be made possible by £750 million new investment over five years, matched by revenue raised through a new levy on tobacco firms which make huge profits on the back of ill-health. Smoking is the largest single cause of premature preventable deaths in the UK.
As well as helping to improve early diagnosis, rapid access to cancer tests will ensure people diagnosed with the disease can start treatment earlier and will also help to reduce the anxiety involved in waiting for a cancer test.