New NHS plans to improve cancer survival and boost mental health support

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The Government has made a “firm commitment” to new NHS plans to improve cancer survival and increase mental health support, despite fears of spending pressures in coming years.

The Health Secretary has announced plans for the implementation of the NHS long-term plan, which aims to see 55,000 more people survive cancer for five years each year by 2028.

The plan also sets out £2.3 billion extra funding for mental health support.

But some raised questions over how the scheme could be funded in the current climate.

Speaking in the Commons, Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) said: “My concern is where the money is going to come from, and I wonder if you have assurances from the Treasury that this will indeed be the case because, with all the other pressures on spending and, indeed, on revenues in the coming years, this might be a little difficult.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Yes, it will, in all circumstances. This is a firm commitment supported right across this House, right across our party, and will be delivered. There is absolutely no question of that.”

As part of the plan, Mr Hancock told MPs that the Government hopes three-quarters of all stageable cancers will be detected at stage one or two by 2028.

He said: “Early detection and diagnosis are essential to enhancing people’s chances of surviving cancer.”

To achieve this, Mr Hancock said the NHS will focus on a radical overhaul of screening programmes, new “state of the art” technology to make diagnosis faster and greater investment and innovation.

The NHS will begin the roll-out of rapid diagnosis centres across England later this year following a pilot with Cancer Research UK.

The boards of NHS England and NHS Improvement last week agreed on the long-term plan implementation framework, alongside the clinical review of standards and an interim workforce plan.

Mr Hancock said the NHS long-term plan will also focus on mental healthcare and NHS staffing.

On mental health, the Health Secretary told MPs that the Government is spending £2.3 billion extra to ensure that 380,000 more adults and 345,000 more children and young people will get access to support.

Mr Hancock said: “The framework sets out how we will create a new workforce of mental health support teams to work with schools and colleges to identify young people who need help and reach them faster.”

On staffing, Mr Hancock said “people are the most valuable resource we have in the NHS” and the Government aims “to recruit, to train and retrain the right numbers of staff over the next decade”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said he had “hoped for a greater sense of urgency” plus a “greater focus on health inequalities”.

He said: “This year is the first time in 100 years that the advances in life expectancy have begun to stall and indeed go backwards in the poorest areas and just the other week we saw that infant mortality rates have risen now for the third year in a row, the first time they’ve risen since the Second World War.”

He said public health services are being “cut by £700 million”, adding: “Yet we still have no plan for social care, we’ve been promised a social care green paper umpteen times, we’re more likely to see the secretary of state riding Shergar at Newmarket than see the social care green paper, where is it?”

Mr Ashworth said that Mr Hancock had given “no certainty again” on capital investment, adding: “Hospitals are facing a £6 billion repair bill, ceilings are falling in, pipes are bursting.”

Mr Ashworth claimed the plan contained numerous Labour ideas.

He said: “There were many laudable things in the plan which we welcome; alcohol care teams, a Labour idea, peri-natal mental health services, a Labour idea, gambling addiction clinics he announced last week, a Labour idea.

“Today he is talking about bringing catering back in-house, a Labour idea. Why doesn’t he just let me be the health secretary and then he can carry on being the press secretary to the member for Uxbridge (Boris Johnson).

Labour’s Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) argued the statement contained no reference to GPs at a time when her constituents were having to wait three weeks for an appointment.

She said: “It’s all very well training doctors for the future, but what’s the secretary of state going to do about the crisis in primary care now?”

Mr Hancock said there were a “record number” of GPs in training.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.