This year’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month – taking place in September 2022 – provides an important opportunity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of blood cancer. I am grateful to organisations like Blood Cancer UK and Leukaemia Care for their role in the campaign to raise public awareness during this period.
As you may be aware, the Government is developing a new 10-Year Cancer Plan that aims to significantly improve cancer diagnosis and survival rates, including for leukaemia.
This includes reaffirming the commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan to reach the goal of 75 per cent of people being diagnosed with cancer at an early stage by 2028. Following a consultation earlier this year, the 10 Year Cancer Plan is under review and further information will be available in due course.
In the meantime, the Government has allocated £2.3 billion to increase the volume of diagnostic activity and the number of community diagnostic centres to increase capacity for clinical tests, including phlebotomy for the diagnosis of suspected blood cancers.
There is excellent existing information and support available from patient groups. I would be happy to signpost to the useful information and support to patients living with leukaemia like Blood Cancer UK and Leukaemia Care.
With on average over 4,000 deaths from leukaemia each year across the UK, improving procedures to help treat this disease remains imperative. I am proud that the Government has committed over £228 million to this end since 2010.
Early diagnosis of leukaemia is often difficult due to the often vague and unclear nature of symptoms. I note Blood Cancer UK’s campaign to seek a reduction in diagnosis delays through new measuring processes and improved GP support.
Since 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has guided GPs to consider an urgent full blood count within 48 hours should adults present with suspicious symptoms.
It is encouraging that leukaemia survival rates have more than quadrupled in the last 40 years, and the Government is committed to ensuring that this trend continues.
I also recognise that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the 13,000 people currently living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) on Watch and Wait.
Leukaemia Care have rightly highlighted the need to provide further support to patients who have been waiting longer for treatment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly around their mental health.
In response to the millions of patients awaiting elective treatment, NHS England has recently launched the "My Planned Care" platform to inform patients on a range of specific conditions which will enable them to support their own health while they are waiting.
I also hope that it provides some reassurance that the Government has recognised the impact of the pandemic on mental health more broadly, providing £2.3 billion of funding each year for these services, plus an additional £500 million of funding allocated in 2021/22 to support the Mental Health Recovery Action Plan.