NHS patients undergoing cancer tests will only have to wait one week for their results, Labour has pledged - should the party achieve a majority at the next election.
Ed Miliband promised that a Labour government would implement the plans by 2020 and would bankroll it with £750million collected through a tax on tobacco firms over five years.
The party said it wants the NHS to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe as part of its 10-year plan, which could, it says, save as many as 10,000 lives each year.
Early cancer detection is just one part of its plan to provide a one-week results service across a number of “urgent diagnostics” by 2025.
Labour says that the number of people waiting more than six weeks for cancer test results have grown exponentially since the Tories came into power – “up from 1,900 in May 2010 to over 10,600 in August 2014,” the party said.
It hopes that a reduction in these numbers will also benefit NHS financials in the long term, seeing as stage one colon cancer costs £3,373 to treat, compared with £12,519 for stage four.
In numbers: the NHS crisis
In an interview with The Times, Mr Miliband said: “We would raise taxes on the most expensive homes worth over £2million in our country, hedge funds which avoid paying their fair share, and the tobacco firms whose products cause so much ill-health and suffering.”
He said that the one-week test “is a plan paid for by money raised from the profits of the tobacco firms whose products have done so much to cause cancer in the first place,” adding that it will make up part of its NHS Time to Care Fund – a £2.5billion injection which the Labour leader unveiled at the party conference last month.
Labour’s Time to Care Fund aims to increase NHS funding to help finance “20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 home care workers and 3,000 midwives,” Mr Miliband said.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said that tobacco firms profit from the seriously harmful effects of its products and that they should shoulder some of the burden of the treatment costs.
“It's absolutely right that they should pay more to put right the damage that they cause,” Ms Arnott said.
“Money from a levy on their profits should be used on evidence-based policies, not just to treat people who are already gravely ill from smoking-related disease, but to help people quit smoking before they get ill and to discourage young people from starting to smoke in the first place.”