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Farron calls on PM to intervene on cancer crisis after Morecambe Bay is revealed to be third worst area for treatment waiting times

June 14, 2021 12:44 PM

South Lakes MP has spearheaded a letter signed by over 60 MPs, heads of medical colleges and leading oncologists, calling on the Prime Minister to prevent tens of thousands of needless cancer deaths.

It comes as the latest figures from NHS England reveal that in April just 52% of cancer patients in the Morecambe Bay CCG area started their treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral - the third lowest rate in the country.

Signed by chairs of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, former cabinet ministers and a former cancer minister, the letter warns that "without urgent action we face a second devastating health crisis as the Covid wards empty and the cancer wards fill."

It calls on the Government to recognise the urgency of the backlog and deliver a new radical national plan, driven from Ministerial level and backed by investment in equipment, technology, IT and workforce and to sweep away bureaucracy that restricts cancer care capacity.

Tim said: "It feels like Ministers and NHS leaders are hearing our words but still not accepting the magnitude of this COVID caused cancer crisis.

"We keep hearing that 'everything is in hand' and that there are 'encouraging signs' but this flies in the face of warnings from frontline staff, patients and cancer experts.

"The impact of COVID has laid bare the weaknesses in our underfunded cancer service and highlighted the need to do things differently.

"This crisis can't be solved by just exhorting the already exhausted staff to 'work harder'.

"We urgently need the Prime Minister to intervene and ensure we have a radical national plan backed with a real cash "super-boost" to give cancer services the tools and capacity they need to catch up."

Leading oncologist and co-founder of #CatchUpWithCancer, Professor Pat Price said: "The cancer community is pleading with the Prime Minister to take this on as a national priority.

"He has said he wants to 'bust the backlog" but it has been over a year since the alarm was raised by the cancer community. And too often it feels like we are shouting into a void.

"The entire cancer pathway needs urgently restoring throughout the country, staff are exhausted and we simply don't have the capacity to catch up.

"The human cost of failing to act is simply unacceptable. And the economic cost of failing to act will undoubtedly be greater than putting it right. It simply doesn't have to be this way.

"The cancer community stands ready to help. Clinicians are brimming with ideas and innovative solutions. But we won't beat the backlog by talking our way out, or by asking NHS staff to "just work harder".

"We need proper investment, backed by the political leadership to ensure that investment gets to where it is needed most. The Prime Minister has shown what can be done with the vaccine program. Now, it's a national imperative that he works with us to do the same for cancer."