Brown to unveil fast-track plan for cancer tests

Author: By Nigel Morris, Deputy political editor

The Prime Minister will claim cancer can be beaten in a generation as he
announces a £1bn of investment in diagnostic equipment over the next five
years.

The extra ultrasound tests, CT scans and MRI scans will be funded by slashing
back the hospital building programme. Mr Brown will claim that 1.4 million
more tests will be done and up to 10,000 lives saved every year through
earlier detection of cancer. It would also provide earlier reassurance to
other patients that they are free of the disease, he will say.

Under the plans, being drawn up by the Health Secretary Andy Burnham, by the
year 2013 cancer sufferers would be guaranteed a test and their results
within two weeks of seeing their GP. The waiting period would be cut to one
week by the year 2015. Patients would have the right to go to a private
hospital for their tests if the NHS is not able to achieve the targets.

The five-year programme to boost the number of tests by the NHS will be the
centre-piece of a prevention and early intervention strategy in the autumn.
Labour sources said the money was available because its “once in a
generation” programme of renewing and rebuilding hospitals was nearly
complete.

The Prime Minister will also promise speedier treatment for cancer patients
once the disease is diagnosed. He is expected to tell the conference that
the moves will help the NHS offer some of the best cancer treatment in the
world. “Our ambition could not be greater, step-by-step to beat cancer
in this generation,” he will say.

Labour sources said Mr Brown would put public-service reform at the heart of
his keynote address to the conference on Tuesday. They believe the
Conservatives remain vulnerable on health and Mr Brown will try to exploit
Tory suggestions that NHS rights and targets could be abolished.

Mr Brown will argue that investment in hospitals should now be targeted on
early life-saving tests. He will describe it as the unfinished business of
NHS reform to which Labour will commit itself if it wins the next election.
It will involve the switch of money from hospital building and refurbishment
towards boosting diagnostic facilities, as well as expanding primary and
community-care facilities.

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