Towards the end of last year, I stepped down as the Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer to the position of Vice-Chair, due to an increasing volume of work. Breast cancer is of course still a hugely important issue for me, and one that comes under my brief as Shadow Minister for Public Health. I thought it may be helpful to provide constituents with an update on some of the breast cancer related events that have been in the news recently.
Breast Cancer Inequality Report
During my time as Co-Chair of the APPG on Breast Cancer, I was proud to be part of the initial work on a report on geographical inequalities in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care across England. The report was published earlier this year, and contained some extremely concerning findings.
Although overall outcomes for breast cancer patients have been improving in recent years, there exists huge variety in the level of the treatment, care and support available to women in different parts of the country.
For example, based on where a woman lives she may be more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 than a woman treated in a different area, and a third less likely to have attended breast cancer screening in the last three years compared to a woman living in another part of the country.
It is entirely unacceptable that access to vital breast cancer care can be so dependent on a postcode lottery of services available. The report made some important recommendations, including that ‘Health Education England and all Cancer Alliances should urgently ensure there are enough healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality and timely diagnosis, treatment and care to local women.’
Following on from the report’s publication, I wrote to the Northern Cancer Alliance to highlight the findings and request a meeting to discuss how they are tackling the challenges within our region. This meeting took place recently, and was extremely informative. I was pleased to hear that once their workforce plans have been finalised, they will be published in order to ensure transparency.
I look forward to seeing these plans once they have been made available.
Breast Cancer Screening Error
Last month, Jeremy Hunt came to the House of Commons to give a statement on a breast cancer screening error that led to thousands of women missing vital examinations.
Although the number of people affected has now been revised down from the figure originally given, the extent of this mistake is truly astounding. Indeed it has had a devastating impact on the lives of many women, and may have led to the premature deaths of up to 74 people.
I now believe that the Department for Health should expand the capacity of the screening programme, and commit to employing more staff in order to ensure that all women are seen in a timely manner.
Figures provided by the Secretary of State show that within Washington and Sunderland West, 110 of women were affected.
I know that many people in our constituency may be worried by this situation. If you think that you may have been affected then there are a number of ways that you can seek more information below:
- Call the breast screening helpline number 0800 169 2692.
- Go the NHS Choices website for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer-screening/missed-invitations/
- Contact my office if I can be of any further assistance on: [email protected] or (0191) 417 2000