Labour and Lib Dems unveil rival plans to cut cancer waiting lists

Labour and Lib Dems unveil rival plans to cut cancer waiting lists

The NHS having more radiotherapy treatment machines could help “spare families the heartbreak of losing a loved one” to cancer, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have set out their pledges to cut cancer waiting times if either or both are able to form a government after the General Election on Thursday July 4.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who lost both his parents to cancer, said he wanted to “end the tragedy of people losing their lives because cancer treatment took too long to start”.

Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who recently received treatment for kidney cancer, said “thousands of patients have waited too long for tests, scans and treatment”.

The Conservatives’ Health Secretary Victoria Atkins acknowledged there is “more to do” to improve cancer detection rates.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed a £1 billion boost for radiotherapy equipment and claim an extra 200 machines would “put the NHS in England amongst the top of the league tables of the number of machines per million people”.

It is part of the party’s pledge to introduce a legal guarantee that every cancer patient should receive treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, and could reduce the distances that patients have to travel to access treatment.

Roughly half the £1 billion cash injection would go on capital expenditure to buy the equipment, with the remaining sum for staffing costs, according to the party.

Sir Ed said: “Like millions of people around the country, I know what it’s like to have your life turned upside down by cancer.

“Thankfully, survival rates and treatments have improved since I lost both my parents to cancer growing up.

“But there is so much more we must do to improve cancer care and spare families the heartbreak of losing a loved one to this terrible disease.

Opinion poll graphic showing Labour on 42%, Conservatives on 21%, Reform on 15%, Lib Dems on 11%, and Greens on 6% on June 14
(PA Graphics)

“We must put an end to the tragedy of people losing their lives because cancer treatment took too long to start.

“Nobody should be unable to receive treatment because there isn’t enough equipment.

“Improving cancer care will be a top priority for Liberal Democrat MPs in the next Parliament.

“Our bold plan would see more investment in radiotherapy machines to improve survival rates and slash waiting times.”

Labour has claimed 700,000 cancer patients will wait too long for treatment if the Conservatives are given another five years” in Government.

The party said its plan to “catch cancer” involved delivering an extra 40,000 appointments, tests and scans a week at evenings and weekends, doubling the number of CT and MRI scanners, with new AI-enabled scanners, and the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history.

Mr Streeting also proposed measures for a “progressive ban on tobacco”.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill proposed by the Conservative government and backed by Mr Streeting at a second reading proposed banning tobacco product sales to everyone born after January 1, 2009.

It failed to clear its hurdles in the Houses of Parliament before the dissolution.

The shadow health secretary said: “Having gone through treatment for kidney cancer, I know that the earlier cancer is caught, the better chance of survival.

“Since the Conservatives took office in 2010, hundreds of thousands of patients have waited too long for tests, scans and treatment.

“If the Conservatives are given another five years, nothing will change, the crisis in cancer care will continue and hundreds of thousands more cancer patients will wait too long.

“Labour’s fully-funded and fully-costed plan will catch cancer on time, diagnosing earlier and treating it faster to save lives. We will also prevent cancer in the first place, passing a progressive ban on tobacco so young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.”

Ms Atkins said cancer detection rates “continue to improve” and added: “We know there is more to do which is why we have recruited record numbers of doctors and nurses and will deliver 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors through our long-term NHS workforce plan and opened 160 community diagnostic centres and will deliver 50 more, delivering millions for scans, tests and checks every year to speed up results and start treatment more quickly.

“Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a clear plan and will take the bold action needed to improve cancer detection rates and save lives, building a brighter future for them and their families.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for Labour’s unfunded promises which would make patients worse off and raise taxes by £2,094 for the privilege, taking the country back to square one.”