On the Politics Show, Sunday 25 November 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley
JON SOPEL: The Conservative Health Spokesman, Andrew Lansley joins me now. Andrew, welcome to the Politics Show. What else did you find?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yeah. It's good to be here Jon. It's astonishing here because this, this variation, what is actually at the heart of this or appears to be at the heart of this is the way in which government allocates money across the country because the way they do it is geared to deprivation, but then when you begin to look at what is it that leads to cancer, actually the largest single thing that leads to cancer is that we get older. And so of course you've got places all across the country which are relatively elderly, where the amounts of money that's been allocated by the government is relatively limited and they can't afford to provide services, so there's a kind of ageism in this a desperate ageism, where there are places where, as you can see, Nottingham and Manchester? large amounts of money being spent, erm, relative to other places. Other places with large numbers of relatively elderly, where the services are very limited.
JON SOPEL: It's an interesting point you make, but if you look at another correlation, which is where is life expectancy higher and where is life expectancy lowest, I suspect in the areas where the most money is being spent, the life expectancy is lower.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well no, you see the very curious thing is it doesn't automatically follow. There are places like Manchester where life expectancy is very limited and there's a great amount being spent on cancer. But also, there are places like Tower Hamlets, where they're spending a lot, but they're not spending it on preventative work. You see I've got separate figures, which show that the amount being given to Tower Hamlets, is very high, but very little of it is being spent on preventative work. So only 51% of the women in Tower Hamlets are accessing breast cancer screening. So we've got a very skewed ineffective cancer service here. We've got too limited preventative work, health inequalities are actually widening, and yet we've got a skewed system, where the elderly, who are suffering from cancer, don't find the services available for them.
JON SOPEL: But you've been on this programme before, arguing against top-down targets, giving local people more power to decide where money is being spent and now you're coming on saying, well hang on, this this is terrible, they've got such wide discrepancies.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yes.
JON SOPEL: It's the natural consequence of what you advocate.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yeah, but if you're going to give the service greater freedom, which is absolutely what I want to do and you've got to be responding to patients, none the less, it's a taxpayer funded service, and the money that gets allocated across the country has got to be allocated fairly. Now you see in - just three days ago, (interjection)
JON SOPEL: So what's the solution, everyone spends the same.
ANDREW LANSLEY: No, not, not the same but it's got to actually bear a proper relationship to the burden of disease in different areas. Now, I've been arguing that for a long time and Patricia Hewitt in the end sent her committee away to go and look at this. But I've been arguing for nearly two years, this week Alan Johnson said, that the committee wasn't going to produce a report in time, it's not going to report till next summer. So we're going to have another year where this money is being allocated, but it's not being allocated related to the burden of disease. And I should, just one more point, there is a point about this public health thing because money is being allocated out across the country, but it's not getting spent on public health, on the preventative work and the screening work that is necessary. And cancer services, we are very, we can see from the EuroCare Survey, published in August, which compared across Europe, we're lagging behind the rest of Europe. If we had? (interjection)
JON SOPEL: But survival rates have improved substantially.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Ah, well they have improved, but they've improved across the world, but if our survival rate for five years in Britain was as good as that in Sweden, thirty four thousand more people would, would live, as a consequence of that. So that's a vast difference. (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Yes, but it's? but the government policy is heading in the right direction in that the survival rates are increasing substantially.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well, policy is heading only in the right direction in the sense that we are investing more in cancer services. What we are clearly not doing by comparison with other countries, is investing sufficient in preventative work and in screening. So - because we tend to have relatively late diagnosis and we have a very poor take up of new drugs compared to other countries. I mean we are in fact, I've got in my own constituency, I've got a cancer research UK new facility, it's fantastic. The British public donate four hundred million pounds a year to Cancer Research UK, we are a country that probably, in Europe has the best Cancer Research. We also have amongst the slowest take-up of new cancer drugs, and that frankly is a scandal, it's something we have to tackle.
JON SOPEL: The Department of Health don't quibble over your statistics, but have you just produced them now because the government is about to announce its cancer strategy in a couple of weeks time and they're probably about to deal with this and you just thought you'd get in under the wire first.
ANDREW LANSLEY: No, actually, we produced them now because for the first time we could combine the material that the government has published on programme budgeting for the Health Select Committee, with the data that's coming out of cancer registries from the quality and outcomes framework for GPs. So actually, last year, you wouldn't have been able to calculate this data. This is the very first time that it's possible to calculate it, and we've done it. The government didn't do it. Interestingly, when the government looked at this, they tried to compare the amount of spend with the total population. We then said no, that's not relevant, you have to compare cancer spend with the proportion of the population who have cancer, which of course comes back to my first point. You end up then saying, there are places where the population is relatively elderly, therefore there is more cancer and the services actually are under funded by comparison with others.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Andrew Lansley, thank you very much for being with us.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Thank you.
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The Politics Show Sunday 25 November 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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