Lib Dem leader in ‘personal’ pledge for dedicated nurse for every cancer patient

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said “this is personal” as he set out his party’s plan to give every cancer patient a dedicated specialist nurse.

His party has published a cancer treatment dataset to coincide with Wednesday’s policy launch, which showed just five out of 133 NHS trusts referred 85% of cancer patients for treatment within 62 days – the standard – in 2023/24.

This is down from 72 out of 145 trusts in 2015/16.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would like to recruit an extra 3,400 nurses in England, paid for by “reversing tax cuts for the big banks and reforming capital gains tax”.

Sir Ed Davey plays tennis, stretching up to hit the ball
Sir Ed Davey plays tennis on the campaign trail in Newbury, Berkshire (Will Durrant/PA)

Other parties have published their plans for cancer care, should they form a government after the General Election on Thursday July 4, including the Conservative, Green and Labour parties.

Sir Ed said: “Every day counts in a battle against cancer. But far too many people are being tragically let down and left waiting too long to start treatment after diagnosis.

“By recruiting more specialist nurses, we would give cancer patients a single point of contact to support them through one of the most difficult periods of their lives.

“Like millions of people, my life was turned upside down by cancer – so this is personal.

“The Liberal Democrats will make improving cancer care a top priority, fighting every day for better care for you and your loved ones.”

Sir Ed’s father died after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma when he was four, and his mother died of breast cancer when he was aged 15.

Of the five hospital trusts meeting the 62-day referral to treatment target in 20232/24, just one was based outside the M25, which encircles London – Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust in Yorkshire.

Of the four within the M25, three were specialist hospitals, according to the research by House of Commons Library – Great Ormond Street Hospital which cares for children, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital which looks after neuromusculoskeletal healthcare.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, which straddles the south-west London and Surrey border, also met the target in 93% of its referrals.

The Liberal Democrats have said £130 million would cover the training costs for 3,400 extra nurses, backed up by a further £240 million a year by 2028/29 to meet employment costs.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto commits to “accelerating the NHS’s recovery from the pandemic, delivering safe and effective services and ongoing improvements in waiting times for primary, elective, cancer and emergency care”.

It reads: “We know that, for most people, poor health comes from living with one or more of six major health conditions: cancer, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, mental ill-health, dementia and respiratory disease.

“We will publish and implement a Major Conditions Strategy to prevent these conditions from occurring and ensure those living with them receive the best possible care.”

The Green Party said the Government has “failed to take on the unhealthy food lobby” in its manifesto, claiming that ultra-processed food “is linked to an increased risk of 32 health problems including cancer, obesity and diabetes” and that poor diets cost the NHS £6.5 billion each year.

It has committed to a National Cancer Plan which would include “public health measures such as interventions on food, alcohol and tobacco” and “enhanced screening”.

Labour, whose shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has previously spoken on the campaign trail about his kidney cancer recovery, has pledged to double the number of CT and MRI scanners, “allowing the NHS to catch cancer and other conditions earlier, saving lives”.