• the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer

    I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected and I pay tribute to Pancreatic Cancer UK for its tireless efforts to transform outcomes for patients.

    Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when potentially curative surgery is not possible. Survival rates are poor in comparison with other cancers and improving outcomes should therefore be a priority for the Government. Early diagnosis and public awareness is key to achieving this, as well as ensuring that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.

    The cancer strategy contains recommendations that could go a long way towards helping people living with cancer. It emphasises the importance of earlier diagnosis and a shift towards faster and less restrictive investigative testing. I welcome that the Government has accepted all 96 recommendations and I am pleased that some have already been met. However, I am concerned that progress has stalled and I believe Ministers should publish a detailed update as soon as possible.

    Improvements in early diagnosis and waiting times also rely on an efficient cancer workforce. NHS staff do an incredible job under difficult circumstances and we should never stop thanking them for the work they do. Staff should be suitably equipped to diagnose, support and care for cancer patients both during and beyond cancer.

    I am concerned that Macmillan Cancer Support has found that hospitals in England have more than 400 specialist vacancies for cancer nurses, chemotherapy nurses and cancer support workers. Cancer Research UK also observes that the vacancy level across diagnostics is at least 10%. The Government must address issues of staff shortages and staff retention as a top priority. If the workforce has the time and resources they need, then the recommendations in the cancer strategy will be achieved. I know that this is something the cancer workforce plan, published in December last year, aimed to address.