I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his intervention. He is right about the importance of satellite radiotherapy centres for his constituents and for large parts of Hertfordshire. He and others have made a powerful case and I have considerable sympathy for it. I find it compelling and I am looking at ways in which we might be able to deliver on that for his constituents and those of other colleagues in the area.
As I was saying, the long-term plan sets out how the Government will achieve their ambition for three quarters of all cancers to be detected at an early stage, and for 55,000 more people to survive cancer for five years in England each year from 2028. That plan includes providing new investment in state-of-the-art technology to transform the process of diagnosis and boost research and innovation. NHS England has committed more than £1.3 billion in funding over the next five years to deliver the long-term plan’s commitments on cancer.
I suspect that the hon. Member for Harrow West will say, “That is great, but what does it mean for Mount Vernon, my constituents and my constituency?” He has set out the background of what has gone on at Mount Vernon cancer centre, and of the review. He will know that the strategic review of that centre’s long-term future was launched by NHS England and NHS Improvement in May 2019. The review began with an independent clinical advisory group visiting the site and speaking with staff and patients. Its report advised that the current service model was not clinically sustainable, as the hon. Gentleman has said, and recommended that leadership of services from a specialist tertiary cancer provider would be key to future service development and sustainability, staff recruitment and retention, and enabling patient access to clinical trials. I am happy to provide him with more details in writing, if that is helpful. Indeed, if I am unable to answer all of his detailed questions in the course of today’s debate, I will write to him with detailed answers as soon as possible.
The hon. Gentleman asked specifically how the review would work, who was leading it, and who would be involved in it. It is being led by a programme board chaired by the NHS regional director of specialised commissioning and health and justice for the east of England. That board includes representatives from Healthwatch Hillingdon, Healthwatch Hertfordshire, London and the East of England Cancer Alliance, as well as local sustainability and transformation partnerships, clinical commissioning groups and a number of acute hospitals. They all sit on that board and are active participants. If it is helpful to the hon. Gentleman, rather than simply giving him the job titles, I can seek to furnish him with some names—those of the senior leadership, at least.
The hon. Gentleman said that the independent clinical advisory group made recommendations for short-term actions, including addressing urgent backlog maintenance of existing clinical facilities and the strengthening of acute oncology services. The current provider, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, supported those recommendations. In January of this year, following evaluation of proposals from interested trusts, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was selected as the preferred provider, subject to a period of due diligence. Depending on the outcome of that due diligence, the contract for running the site should transfer in April next year, with UCLH providing additional leadership support for that site over the next 14 months.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned backlog maintenance, which I have touched on. He is right to have done so, because, as he knows, backlog maintenance has increased in recent years. Although the trust received £33 million of central capital in 2019 to tackle critical infrastructure issues across the estate, monitored by NHSE&I, I know that it continues to be of concern. Although I do not wish to prejudge the future capital settlement and the capital spending review, the hon. Gentleman has powerfully made the point that the capital needs of his hospital and his trust should be considered in any future allocations of capital funding.
The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of access to brachytherapy services, which will be wrapped up in the review that is currently under way. Regarding the future location of services, I can assure him and hon. Members that options for the short-term and long-term future of the centre are being actively considered by the clinical advisory group and NHSE&I, with the local area and the hon. Gentleman’s hospital at the forefront of their thinking. When I write to him, I suspect he might wish me to be a little firmer in my reassurances. As far as I am able, subject to that review, I will endeavour to do so.
The hon. Gentleman also talked about staffing issues at the hospital. Existing clinical leads at Mount Vernon have increased their leadership duties at the hospital alongside their clinical responsibilities. Recruitment of a full-time clinical director will take place in conjunction with the new provider, once it is appointed. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the business case for appointing additional staff to the acute oncology service that has been developed and submitted to NHS England. My understanding is that the business case has been approved and recruitment has begun. I will take up with NHS England his request that he have sight of it and—ideally from his perspective, I think—that it be made publicly available. I do not know what the answer will be, but I will certainly ask that question, because it does not seem an unreasonable request.
Regarding whether the three linear accelerators due for replacement this year are going to be replaced, my latest understanding is that although East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust has not yet agreed its full capital programme for the 2020-21 financial year, it has identified a requirement for capital funding, which the board will consider in that context. As soon as I hear the outcome of those decisions, I will write to the hon. Gentleman, who, as ever, makes his case politely but forcefully. More broadly, as he will be aware, NHS England has invested £130 million in the modernisation of radiotherapy across England, ensuring that older linear accelerators—that is, radiotherapy machines—used by hospitals are upgraded. We have made significant progress. I think the hon. Gentleman’s request acknowledges that, but he is essentially saying, “Yes, I have been given a promise, but please make sure that the delivery follows.” The decision on the trust’s investment priorities rightly sits with the board, and we will wait for that decision, but I will make sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said is communicated to the board. I suspect he will make sure of that as well, but I will ensure that the board is aware of his views.
The hon. Gentleman suggested quarterly updates to track progress against a basket of key indicators or asks in the context of the action plan. I hesitate to give a clear commitment until I have had the opportunity to talk to the trust and NHS England, but what I will say—I hope gives him an indication of my thinking—is that it sounds like an eminently practical and reasonable request to ensure that he, other interested parties and his constituents are kept informed about and engaged with a process that will, of course, be of concern to them but also of interest as well. It sounds reasonable—I am not aware of a factor that makes it unreasonable—and I will certainly press that point, because I think it is a sensible way forward.
In response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire, I have touched on satellite radiotherapy centres. Alongside working with the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, we are proactively looking at providing satellite radiotherapy centres for his constituents in the northern part of Hertfordshire and around Stevenage. It is too early to say exactly how we might do that, but I am determined to work proactively with colleagues to see if we can achieve it.
We are committed to the digitisation of paper records, which the hon. Member for Harrow West mentioned, to enable effective patient care and enhanced patient safety. The digital transformation plan, which will include the digitisation of patient care records, is under way for Mount Vernon’s main acute services and is expected to conclude in May 2020. I understand that the commitment to do that—to support and fund it—remains unchanged. If anything has changed, I will make sure that he is updated as appropriate.
There are a number of hon. Members present. I suspect they are not here to hear my or the hon. Gentleman’s eloquence, but possibly that of other hon. Members and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who will take part in the debate that will start in a few minutes. Given the interest, however, I will see if it is appropriate to put in the Library a copy of my letter to the hon. Gentleman so that it is on the record.
If the hon. Gentleman thinks it would be useful, I am happy to meet him and to visit Mount Vernon with him to meet the staff, to hear the executive team’s thinking on what is going on, and to see it for myself. He raised a number of detailed and precise questions and important points. In the short time I have had, I have sought to reassure him and address a number of them, but I look forward to the opportunity to give him a more detailed answer in writing following the debate, and to visit him.
I reassure hon. Members that cancer, and improving cancer treatment and care, remains a key priority for the Government and the Department. We, along with NHSE&I and other arm’s length bodies, are working hard to ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and those of all hon. Members are provided with the best care.
Although cancer care and cancer services are the responsibility of the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), given that a large amount of what the hon. Gentleman has talked about relates to performance and to capital and funding, which are in my portfolio, I will endeavour to maintain a personal direct interest in the issue, in partnership with my hon. Friend, to make sure that we both give it the attention it deserves and that he and his constituents have a right to expect.
Question put and agreed to.