South Lakes MP Tim Farron has raised the long delays cancer patients are facing in Cumbria to receive life-saving treatment in parliament.
New figures from the NHS have revealed that 38.7% of cancer patients in Morecambe Bay waited more than two months for their first treatment.
Meanwhile in North Cumbria, more than half of cancer patients (53.7%) were still waiting for their first treatment after 62 days.
The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale made the case for a radiotherapy unit at the Westmorland General Hospital to help tackle the waiting times and reduce the long journeys that patients in the South Lakes face for vital treatment.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on Government Support for Rural Communities, Mr Farron said: “The reality in a community like mine is that, throughout south Cumbria, there are around 700 people having to travel each year for radiotherapy treatment to their nearest radiotherapy centre - the Rosemere Cancer Centre in Preston in Lancashire, which is excellent. That is a two, three or four hour round trip for those 700 people.
“Swindon has recently been allocated a satellite unit on the basis of 600 patients who would use that centre. My call is for a satellite radiotherapy centre to be placed at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal to serve south Cumbria and to ensure that those people receive the treatment they need.
“The latest figures tell us that 38% of people in south Cumbria diagnosed with cancer wait more than two months for their first intervention, and 54% of those in places in north Cumbria, such as Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and Shap, have to wait more than two months for their first intervention.
“We know that, for every four weeks of delay in cancer treatment, one has 10% less chance of surviving. I believe that people in rural communities have as much right to have a life ahead of them than those who live elsewhere, yet we have a funding situation that does not treat them as such.”
In response, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Robbie Moore MP said: “We are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to good-quality health and social care wherever they live.
‘’That is why we are working better and faster to deliver more accessible care in rural areas. That includes rolling out 160 community diagnostic centres. Many are located in market town centres, which can reduce the distances that people need to travel. I am pleased that those diagnostic centres are being rolled out across England as I speak.
“I also want to pick up on a point on satellite services made by the honourable Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale. I have seen them work very well in certain parts of England. I recognise some of the specific challenges that he referenced in his speech. They are something I could take away to look at with the Department of Health and Social Care.
“My role as Minister for Rural Affairs is to try to bring together objectives that other Departments want to achieve and ensure that they can be rolled out in rural areas.”