YOU will have heard of the great progress in my campaign for a new Cancer and Surgical Innovation Centre with the announcement of a £25m grant from the NHS.
Construction of the new centre can now start next year and fundraising for some of the very latest robots continues apace.
I have also been doing a select committee inquiry into how to improve cancer survival rates which backs up why we need the new centre - but also underlines something else, namely the vital importance of early diagnosis.
Here there are two pieces of extremely encouraging news. Firstly, the government has just announced £350m to fund 100 new diagnostic centres across the country. These are intended to pick up not just cancers but many other conditions and what is particularly exciting is that one of them will be at Frimley Park and the other at Milford.
The new diagnostic centres are based on recommendations by Professor Sir Mike Richards, who was my chief inspector of hospitals and also Tony Blair’s cancer tsar.
He says the new centres will be ’green’ that is to say as far as possible ’Covid-free’ so they can continue to operate even in lockdowns. For that reason they will operate separately - and at arm’s length - from A&Es with Covid tests required before attendance.
They will test for cancer, cardiac, respiratory and other conditions and will be organised so that as far as possible patients only have to attend once.
The centres will also be a place that blood samples can be taken without the need to attend a major hospital (or the acute part of a hospital), again reducing the risks of Covid transmission.
Alongside improvements in outcomes and convenience for patients, the new diagnostic centres also improve efficiency. They will bring down the cost of MRI and CT scanner because the NHS will now bulk buy them for the whole country. They will reduce duplication of imaging because results will be shared through electronic health records.
But the biggest impact is simply the lives they will save because patients will get a lot of tests done at the same time, increasing the chances of catching disease earlier.
And while they offer the best of modern technology, equally exciting is another piece of news, namely a new NHS trial to test whether a revolutionary blood test could detect as many as 50 different types of cancer.
The Galleri test checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood and the NHS trial of Galleri, the first of its kind in the world, started this autumn recruiting 140,000 volunteers to see how well it works.
Just imagine what a truly breathtaking step forward it will be to be able to spot 50 cancers before you have any symptoms at all - that is the holy grail that may now be within reach. And it’s happening here with the NHS!
The big lesson from the pandemic has been the way science rode to the rescue by producing new tests, treatments and vaccines far more quickly than anyone thought possible.
With the Galleri trial and the new diagnostic centres in Milford and Frimley Park we will soon find out whether the same can be true for cancer.
One in two of us will get cancer in our lives so at a time when good news is in rather short supply this really could be a game changer for every family locally.