Select Committee on Science and Technology First Report



1.  The conclusions of the next independent study or inquiry on cancer care or research will be crucial in assessing the effectiveness of the NHS Cancer Plan (paragraph 5).

Government Research Funding

2.  We recommend that the Department of Health publish annual figures for their expenditure on cancer research, detailing exactly where money is spent. We are not convinced that the £190 million which the Government claims to be spending on cancer research is really being spent on cancer research alone (paragraph 11).

3.  There remains a suspicion that at least some of the increase in spending is merely the result of re-badging (paragraph 12).

4.  Whatever the exact level of Government and charitable funding of cancer research, and irrespective of which is the greater, it is clear that the Government is still far from spending as much as is needed. The Committee's Report recommended that the Government should spend at least £200 million per annum on cancer research, excluding funds from NHS R&D or the Higher Education Funding Councils. The Government still has a way to go to achieve this target (paragraph 14).

Cancer Plan Funding

5.  The increase in cancer care funding, often quoted over recent months, may not be reaching those who are relying on it to deliver the Cancer Plan. We are seriously concerned at the apparent ease with which Trusts can redeploy such funds if they choose. We consider it dissembling to allocate funding to cancer care, with great publicity, without taking even the simplest precaution to ensure that it reaches the intended areas. It is vital that end-of-year accounts for 2000-01, when eventually published, reveal exactly where Cancer Plan funds were deployed, and that Trusts be made answerable for any cancer funding spent on other services or financial requirements (paragraph 18).

National Cancer Research Institute

6.  We welcome the establishment of a National Cancer Research Institute and are pleased to hear of strengthening links between Government, charities and industry, although it is too soon to judge the effectiveness of its projects. We believe that the Institute could benefit from a higher profile amongst those not directly involved in its work (paragraph 22).

National Cancer Research Networks

7.  It would be helpful to researchers, clinicians and patients if a map of the regional Cancer Networks was available and we recommend that such a map be published in the next NHS Cancer Plan progress report (paragraph 23).

8.  We welcome the Government's move to establish a network structure for research funding and collaboration across the regions. We can only hope that the workings of the separate research and service networks are clearer to those working in, and treated within them, than they are to us (paragraph 26).

National Translational Cancer Research Network

9.  We welcome the introduction of a network specifically designed to further translational research. We recommend that the level of core funding for NTRAC centres is kept under review, to ensure they are able to operate effectively (paragraph 28).

MRC Cancer Cell Unit at Addenbrookes'

10.  We urge the MRC to support further translational research activities along the lines of the new Addenbrooke's Cancer Cell Unit (paragraph 29).

Beatson Institute, Glasgow

11.  We must express our concern at the situation at the Beatson as it has implications for cancer research across the UK. We have referred our concerns to our colleagues on the Health and Community Care Committee in the Scottish Parliament for them to take further as appropriate (paragraph 30).

Cancer Registration

12.  The Department of Health expected the Health and Social Care Act Regulations to be laid before Parliament in February 2002. We note that this was not achieved. We await the forthcoming Regulations with impatience (paragraph 34).

13.  The GMC's Guidance on Confidentiality was very ill-advised and has been highly damaging to information gathering for medical research and cancer registration (paragraph 35).

14.  The delay by the Department of Health in setting up the Patients' Information Advisory Group and in bringing forward draft legislation to address the situation of cancer registration is deeply regrettable. Unless legislation is put in place swiftly, medical research will be irretrievably damaged (paragraph 37).

NHS Staffing

15.  We are concerned at the Department of Health's inability to provide real targets or figures on NHS cancer staff, even for those in training. Without current staffing figures and targets, progress cannot be assessed in future. We urge the Department to publish its staffing goals and to provide regular updates on their progress. Funding posts is not enough: the Department must ensure that there are enough staff in training to fill these posts. We find lack of measurable progress in addressing staffing problems disappointing (paragraph 42).

NHS Equipment

16.  We note the Department of Health's confidence that equipment is being provided on time and in the right places, with adequate staff support. Morale in hospitals and among patients will plummet if there is not the staff on the ground to be able to make full use of new equipment (paragraph 46).

Access to clinical trials

17.  We are disappointed at the lack of progress in the admission of cancer patients into clinical trials. We urge more rapid progress towards the development of extensive and accessible clinical trials databases to inform both researchers and patients and look forward to seeing a rapid rise in the number of patients entering clinical in trials in the near future (paragraph 47).

Patient access to drugs

18.  We remain to be convinced that the problems of timely patient access to drugs have been solved, and in view of strong criticism expressed to us in evidence on the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, we look forward to the Health Committee's Report on NICE with interest (paragraph 49).


19.  We welcome the merger of the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and expect the new charity, Cancer Research UK, to prove an even stronger champion of UK cancer research. We hope other cancer charities see their example as a positive one to follow, and that more mergers and consolidations of cancer research organisations will follow (paragraph 53).

National Cancer Act

20.  We recommend that the Government reconsider the potential value of a National Cancer Act in the light of our concerns regarding cancer registration, adequate funding for the cancer research infrastructure and the need for a cancer research strategy (paragraph 54).

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