Labour promises to cut breast cancer waiting time

Tony Blair today promised to cut cancer waiting times in a third term Labour government.

Health Secretary John Reid pledged that by 2008 every woman referred for possible breast cancer will see a specialist within two weeks.

But the Tories have accused the Government of "distorting" the truth through its targets and have instead promised to create more hospitals specifically aimed at children.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is expected to say that NHS trusts in Leeds, Nottingham, Derby, Cambridge and Southampton will be invited to bid for funding to set up new children's hospitals as part of a £300 million review of paediatric services.
Speaking about his breast cancer targets, Mr Reid said: "If a doctor refers you to a specialist with breast cancer it is a worrying time - regardless of whether they refer you as an urgent or non urgent referral.

"I've listened to women tell me that the wait is like putting your life on hold, waiting to get the certainty they need to confront their fears and put an end to the distress of their family and friends.

"Now Labour is acting to put an end to long periods of anxiety and uncertainty for all women referred for possible breast cancer.

"Labour has been successful in ensuring 99 per cent of breast cancer cases referred as 'urgent' by GPs are seen by a specialist within two weeks. This has been a massive step forward from 1997, but I recognise more needs to be done."

But the Tories have accused Labour of hiding the real truth about the treatment of cancer and announcing "misrepresentative" targets.

"Conservatives have been calling on Mr Blair to scrap his targets which distort clinical priorities and prevent accurate GP referral," Mr Lansley said.

"Typically, just days before a general election, Labour are trumpeting the expansion of their two-week target for bowel and breast cancer as something special - but Mr Blair's targets are misrepresentative and only tell you part of the story for only a handful of cancers."

And the Liberal Democrats' health spokesman Paul Burstow said that another target is not the answer.

Mr Burstow, said: "Rather than boasting about a new breast cancer target, Labour should be apologising to the thousands of women who had their diagnosis and treatment delayed because of the previous target.

"This is despite evidence three years ago, showing that Labour's two week urgent referral targets were leading to thousands of women being referred as non urgent only to find out months later that they had cancer."

He added: "Lives have been put on hold, lives have been put at risk, lives have been lost as a result of a target that missed the point. Announcing a new target is not the answer."