Brown to unveil fast-track plan for cancer tests

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Cancer patients are to be given the right to be tested and have their results within a week of seeing their doctor, Gordon Brown will tell the Labour conference.

The Prime Minister will claim cancer can be beaten in a generation as he announces a £1bn of investment in diagnostic equipment over the next five years.

The extra ultrasound tests, CT scans and MRI scans will be funded by slashing back the hospital building programme. Mr Brown will claim that 1.4 million more tests will be done and up to 10,000 lives saved every year through earlier detection of cancer. It would also provide earlier reassurance to other patients that they are free of the disease, he will say.

Under the plans, being drawn up by the Health Secretary Andy Burnham, by the year 2013 cancer sufferers would be guaranteed a test and their results within two weeks of seeing their GP. The waiting period would be cut to one week by the year 2015. Patients would have the right to go to a private hospital for their tests if the NHS is not able to achieve the targets.

The five-year programme to boost the number of tests by the NHS will be the centre-piece of a prevention and early intervention strategy in the autumn. Labour sources said the money was available because its "once in a generation" programme of renewing and rebuilding hospitals was nearly complete.

The Prime Minister will also promise speedier treatment for cancer patients once the disease is diagnosed. He is expected to tell the conference that the moves will help the NHS offer some of the best cancer treatment in the world. "Our ambition could not be greater, step-by-step to beat cancer in this generation," he will say.

Labour sources said Mr Brown would put public-service reform at the heart of his keynote address to the conference on Tuesday. They believe the Conservatives remain vulnerable on health and Mr Brown will try to exploit Tory suggestions that NHS rights and targets could be abolished.

Mr Brown will argue that investment in hospitals should now be targeted on early life-saving tests. He will describe it as the unfinished business of NHS reform to which Labour will commit itself if it wins the next election. It will involve the switch of money from hospital building and refurbishment towards boosting diagnostic facilities, as well as expanding primary and community-care facilities.

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