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"Major improvements in cancer care could take years"
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Health Secretary, Alan Milburn
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banner Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Milburn pledges anti-cancer drive
Phatology lab at Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon
More resources are expected for all cancer services
Cancer survival rates in the UK will be among the best in Europe within 10 years, the Health Secretary has pledged.

Addressing the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Alan Milburn said increased funding would help more people to survive the disease.

Mr Milburn was unveiling the government's National Cancer Plan, which aims to reduce the number of deaths from the disease and improve treatment for patients.

He pledged to increase the number of cancer specialists working in the NHS by one third over the next 10 years and to improve waiting times.

From next year, women with breast cancer will wait no more than one month between being diagnosed with the disease and receiving treatment.

We want to see the fastest improvement in cancer services anywhere in Europe

Alan Milburn, Health Secretary

Mr Milburn said this target will be spread to cover all cancers within a few years.

"We want to see the fastest improvement in cancer services anywhere in Europe," he said.

"By 2010 our cancer survival rates will be among the best in Europe."

He added: "Our investment in cancer services symbolises our ambition for the whole health service - an NHS no longer behind the best in Europe but a health service getting bigger, getting better, aiming to be the best."

Mr Milburn said extra money would be made available to help those dying from the disease.

"We all know from our own communities the very real differences hospices make to the lives of people with cancer and their families.

"The Cancer Plan includes over the next four years a 50m boost from the NHS to fund hospices and palliative care in communities across the country.

"With new cash from the lottery we will match the money raised by charities for children's and adult hospices."

Health gap

Mr Milburn promised to tackle the health gap between rich and poor people.

"A child born into a poverty will live nine years less than a child born into wealth. We make a new commitment to narrow the health gap between children rich and poor."

He reiterated the government's commitment to tackling hospital waiting times.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn: Britain has lagged behind in cancer care

"We will end long waiting in cardiac services, in cancer services, across the whole health service.

"Shorter waiting times in casualty. Shorter waiting times for the GP surgery.

"We will cut maximum waiting times for hospital treatment from 18 m to 6 months and then we will cut them again from 6 months to 3 months.

"Yes it will take time to get there but over the next few years there will be real progress."


Party delegates applauded when the Health Secretary pledged to improve the pay of doctors and nurses.

"More nurses, more power and more pay. And more for doctors too," he said.

"Britain's hospital doctors and family doctors do an excellent job and we will pay them for that. The NHS needs its new doctors and we will pay them accordingly."

Christine Hancock of the Royal College of Nursing welcomed plans to boost nurses' pay.

"The people of this country know that nurses need more money.

"It's early in the cycle to know about pay rises but its good to see the Health Secretary leading the way on this."

Party members also supported plans to scrap compulsory competitive tendering. This required hospitals to invite companies to bid to provide many services, such as laundry, catering and cleaning.

Hospitals were generally expected to accept the cheapest bid, sometimes with poor results.

Mr Milburn said :"Compulsory competitive tendering has not improved patient care. It has damaged the NHS for too long - and it will go."

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See also:

27 Sep 00 | Labour
Labour faces pensions showdown
30 Jun 00 | Health
Milburn reveals NHS reform plans
10 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Plan to tackle cancer issue
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