Second Stem Cell Transplants September 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the decision to cut funding for second stem cell transplants from NHS England’s specialised services.

I share your concerns with any patient being denied a treatment that could possibly save their life. This is particularly concerning given that such treatment was available before 2013 and is routinely carried out in other parts of the world.

Both Anthony Nolan and the Lymphoma Association have criticised the decision and I am aware that Anthony Nolan has recently delivered an open letter with 18,000 signatures to the Health Secretary, calling on him to urge NHS England to reconsider its decision.

Anthony Nolan and the NHS Stem Cell Registry have given thousands of people the opportunity to have a transplant where they previously may not have been able to be matched with a donor. I support Anthony Nolan's efforts in trying to expand the register of potential donors, especially amongst younger people, and people from BAME backgrounds, who are particularly underrepresented on the current donor register.

As you may know, a parliamentary petition has also been established which calls on NHS England to reverse its decision. If the petition receives 10,000 signatures, the Government will be required to respond, and if receives 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

As you might be aware, since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act was introduced, the commissioning of national specialised services is a core responsibility of NHS England. Their collective budget for 2016-17 is £15.7 billion, which represents more than 14% of the total NHS budget. Various criteria are considered before NHS England decides to commission a specialised service, primarily based about two main criteria of clinical benefit and cost of delivering the service.

If Labour is elected we will maintain the commissioning of specialised services at a national level in order to maintain a high level of expertise, which is required to ensure that decisions like these are made fairly and that everyone is able to access the same level of services. This is in stark contrast to the Government’s attempts to regionalise such processes, which could lead to a “postcode lottery” for lifesaving treatments.

It is clear that the Government needs to do much more to improve cancer care, support and treatment. Growing numbers of patients are waiting too long to get tested for cancer and the Government has repeatedly missed the two-month waiting-time target for cancer treatment.

I fought the 2015 election on a Manifesto in which the Labour Party promised to protect, improve and invest in the NHS, as we always did in our previous Government and will continue to do if re-elected. The manifesto also proposed to create a Cancer Treatments Fund so patients have access to the latest drugs, surgery and radiotherapy. We also committed to increasing spending for the NHS by £2.5 billion to pay for thousands of frontline staff.

Thank you very much for writing to me and for sharing your views. I will continue to bear these in mind as and when this issue is debated further in Parliament.