§ Yvette Cooper
The White Paper "The new NHS—Modern, Dependable" set the standard that everyone with suspected cancer will be able to see a specialist within two weeks of their GP deciding that they need to be seen urgently and requesting an appointment. These arrangements were introduced for women with suspected breast cancer from April 1999 and are being put in place for all other cases of suspected cancer during 2000. The standard will be introduced for prostate cancer in December. We have published referral guidelines to assist GPs in determining those patients who need to be referred urgently within two weeks to see a specialist. The referral guidelines are not mandatory but represent guidance on best available evidence. Clinical judgment will, in addition to the guidelines, play an important part in reaching any clinical decision.
§ Yvette Cooper
The latest figure available for annual Government expenditure (Department of Health/National Health Service, Medical Research Council and other Government Departments—principally devolved health departments) on prostate cancer is £1.55 million. This figure underestimates the total Government research and development expenditure in this area, as detailed estimates of NHS support funding are not collected routinely.172W
Since 1997 we have committed over £800,000 to new research projects on prostate cancer, through the Medical Research Council and through the Department. The Department has actively sought to support such work in prostate cancer, and has not rejected any high quality proposals for work in this area.
The Department recently announced £1 million additional new funding for urgent research studies into prostate cancer as a mark of its concern over this disease.
Following the seminar last year at No. 10 a "Cancer Research Funders' Forum" has been established to help improve the co-ordination of cancer research in the UK. It is being run by the MRC and includes DH representatives and the major cancer research charities. At the Department's request, the Forum considered the issue of prostate cancer at its first meeting on 10 January. They agreed to set up an expert group on prostate cancer, which will identify gaps in current research and suggest ways of filling them. The expert group met for the first time on 25 February, and expects to report within months.
We have recently appointed a National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, who will spearhead our concerted drive on cancer. He will work in partnership with doctors, nurses, general practitioners, other health professionals and the voluntary sector to improve prevention and modernise cancer services to help ensure equitable access to high quality cancer care. This will include a close interest in the development and progression of research.