Minister denies cancer test pressure

Care services minister Paul Burstow has denied suggestions from a DH adviser that GPs are being pressured to reduce use of a cancer test.

Mr Burstow: 'All patients who need to have access to this test should receive it'
Mr Burstow: 'All patients who need to have access to this test should receive it'

Yorkshire GP Dr Nick Summerton, a DH cancer adviser, had said that a letter sent to practices in the north of England implied GPs had over-used an ovarian cancer test and should audit appropriate use.

But Mr Burstow refuted the suggestion. 'Doctors are not being pressured to reduce their use of this ovarian cancer test, and all patients who need to have access to this test should receive it,' he said.

'The Yorkshire and the Humber Cancer Network has confirmed that there is no issue with capacity. The network is simply seeking to understand whether the test is being used appropriately, as recommended by NICE.'

He also responded to comments from charities that the NHS was 'over-stretched' on capacity for colonoscopy services ahead of the government's bowel cancer awareness programme, which begins on Monday.

He said: 'NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh wrote to trust chief executives about the forthcoming bowel cancer campaign last year, and a further letter followed from the national cancer director, Professor Sir Mike Richards.'

Mr Burstow insisted these letters 'emphasised the need to prepare for the expected increases in referrals to secondary care and the additional activity in endoscopy and pathology services'.

He added: 'We also asked NHS Improvement to carry out a review of endoscopy services, to help understand manage and plan appropriately for colonoscopy demand.'

It comes as charity Beating Bowel Cancer said over 1,800 bowel cancer patients are being denied a choice of treatment each year.

The charity wants fines to be introduced for NHS hospitals that fail to offer bowel cancer patients a full range of clinically appropriate treatments.

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