Ed Miliband has pledged that patients in England will wait no longer than a week for a cancer test and a further week for the results by 2020, as part of Labour's proposed Time to Care fund.
The Labour Party's plan would be funded by a levy on the profits of tobacco companies, which is expected to raise the £750 million needed to meet the target. Labour has claimed that there has been a £790 million real-terms cut in spending on cancer services, which has led to more people waiting for a test. They stated that 10,616 patients waited for more than six weeks to be tested for cancer in August 2014, compared with 1856 in May 2010.
Speaking in The Times, Mr Miliband said: 'Labour is setting out the next stage of our NHS plan: a guarantee that no one will have to wait longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020. It is critical that we improve early diagnosis of cancer – a killer disease that one in three of us will get – so that we can match the best countries in the world for surviving it.'
Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy, said: 'Far too many cancer patients are diagnosed far too late to have a fighting chance of long-term survival. We've made some progress but we urgently need to do more to diagnose cancers early. So we welcome the Labour Party's plans to speed up testing for suspected cancer. To deliver test results within a week will take a huge effort and so this ambition will need to remain a top priority if it's to be realised.'
Labour's Time to Care fund was announced by Mr Miliband at the party's conference in September . He pledged to use a tax on homes worth over £2 million, a crackdown on tax avoidance in the financial sector, and a levy on the profits of tobacco companies to provide the NHS with an additional £2.5 billion on top of spending rises promised by the Conservative Party. This money would be used to recruit 20,000 more nurses, he said, 3000 more midwives and 8000 more GPs by 2025, as well as fund the cancer waiting time pledge.
A government spokesman refuted Labour's claim that the pledge would improve cancer waiting times, saying: 'Labour simply can't be trusted to deliver improvements in cancer care – they left us with some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe, which we're now improving by referring record numbers of patients with a suspected cancer for treatment, delivering 10,000 more tests every day to diagnose more cancers earlier, and giving people access to the most advanced new drugs, all of which reduces the impact of this disease on patients and their families.'