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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Blair's millions for cancer research
Tony Blair stunned the charities with the announcement
Tony Blair has pledged to vastly increase the spending on cancer research by matching charity donations pound for pound.

And his revamp of cancer services will eventually mean, he said, that no-one need wait longer than a month to start treatment after being diagnosed with the disease.

By 2003, for the first time, the Government will be matching pound for pound charity funding for cancer research

Tony Blair
The charity cash announcement, described as "phenomenal" by one leading cancer charity, was made during his Labour Party Conference speech on Tuesday.

He said: "By 2003, for the first time, the Government will be matching pound for pound charity funding for cancer research."

He confirmed the extension of the breast cancer screening programme, which will mean in theory that another 400,000 women are eligible for screening each year.

Some doctors would maintain the money needed to screen older women would be better spent elsewhere.

Mr Blair repeated the ambitious pledge in the NHS Plan to boost the number of cancer specialists - adding 1,000 over the next six years.

And he confirmed the extra millions to be spent upgrading the UK's worn out radiotherapy and scanning machines.

The Department of Health is to publish its full plans for upgrading cancer services tomorrow.

The speech was warmly received
It is already rolling out a scheme which "guarantees" a patient suspected of having cancer will see a specialist within a fortnight of seeing their GP.

Mr Blair said that as the number of cancer specialists in the NHS increased, a cancer patient should have to wait no longer than a month from seeing a consultant to the start of their treatment.

This is phenomenal - the feeling here is absolute elation

Cancer Research Campaign
Surveys had shown that some could be waiting several months for radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

But it is the research funding announcement that has stunned medical research charities.

Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "This is phenomenal - the feeling here is absolute elation.

"It was a shock announcement and we calculate it could cost the government close to 200m.

"We have been saying for ages that we need this, that the technology is there, it's just the money that's missing."

However, Sir Paul Nurse, director general of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, while welcoming the extra money, said: "Let's not get carried away.

"The charities currently spend over 150 million each year on research, the government already spends around 110 million.

"So we are not talking about a huge increase, particularly as it will be spread over the next three years."

Downing Street petition

Breakthrough Breast Cancer last year delivered a petition with 650,000 signatures to Downing Street, calling on the government to match cancer charity funding pound for pound.

Chief executive, Delyth Morgan, welcomed today's announcement, describing it as "fantastic news".

"Breakthrough has been campaigning for this injection of funds. There have been major developments in the understanding and detection of cancer and it's because of research that this has been possible," she added.

Andrew Trehearne from the Leukaemia Research Fund said that the charity workers "collecting pennies on street corners" would take heart from the pledge of additional research funding.

"There have been so many developments in the past ten to twenty years and the time is now ripe to put some more money into research to help us make more progress," he said.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Health
Milburn reveals NHS reform plans
19 Jun 00 | Health
Call for national cancer agency
24 May 00 | Health
Cancer surgeons shortage warning
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