Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Cancer nurses funding row

Adam Brimelow
Health Correspondent, BBC News

Cancer patient
Mr Brown's proposals are part of wider plans for community health care

Gordon Brown has given more details of Labour's plans to provide dedicated one-to-one specialist nursing for everyone in England with cancer.

In a speech in central London the prime minister said the move would transform the experience of patients.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say the government is not being honest about funding the extra nurses.

But senior health officials say the move could mean savings from reduced hospital admissions.

Too many cancer patients and cancer survivors do not get the right support to meet their varied needs.
Ciaran Devane, Macmillan Cancer Support

In a speech at the health research charity, The King's Fund, Gordon Brown outlined his thoughts on the future of the NHS.

"We must push forward with new and ever more stretching guarantees to secure for every family the right to get the best possible personalised health care when and where they need it," he said.


He confirmed that the guarantees would be legally enforceable.

They include the right for anyone with suspected cancer to see a specialist within two weeks of diagnosis, and a commitment to ensure that all cancer tests will be completed and results given in one week.

Mr Brown said one-to-one specialist care at home for cancer patients could "transform their experience", and would benefit 1.6 million people.

Under the plan the specialist nurses would support patients during treatment and beyond, helping to deal with side-effects and keeping an eye out for signs of a relapse.

The department of health in England says £20 million pounds has been set aside for the first twelve months of the five-year programme.

But officials could not confirm how it will be paid for after that.


In response, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have praised the work of cancer nurses, but questioned how the plan could be delivered.

The shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: "I'm worried that they are not being straight with the public.

"It is very difficult to see how they will be able to fund their pledge for one-to-one nursing."

For the Liberal Democrats, Norman Lamb acknowledged the plan was an "attractive proposition", but he questioned the Prime Minister's motives.

He said: "The obvious question is has it been properly thought through and how exactly will it be funded?

"With only months until an election must be called this reeks of yet another desperate pre-election bribe by Labour."

The government intends to work closely with the charity Macmillan Cancer Support in providing the extra nurses.

The charity's Chief Executive, Ciaran Devane, praised the plan saying: "This is very welcome news. Macmillan is delighted to work with the NHS in introducing these crucial new nurses so that every cancer patient will get the gold standard of care.

"Too many cancer patients and cancer survivors do not get the right support to meet their varied needs.

"Specialist cancer nurses provide invaluable care and support from the point of diagnosis, throughout treatment and after."

Lorraine Clifton, chief executive of children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent said:

"CLIC Sargent has long called for the provision of one-to-one specialist cancer nurse support for all children and young people with cancer and so we welcome this commitment by the Government and look forward to hearing how the proposal will meet their needs.

"One-to-one support may mean a child is able to spend more time at home, helping them to not only maintain their family life but also cope better with the challenges of treatment and beyond."

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