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Government drops one-on-one cancer nurse plan

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Plans made under Labour to improve cancer services and provide free prescriptions for people with long term conditions have been abandoned by the government, it has confirmed.

Today’s public spending review says the previous government’s plans to introduce a one week cancer diagnostic waiting target and one-to-one nursing care for cancer patients were not affordable.

Although NHS spending will increase by 0.1 per cent above inflation each year, the chancellor still confirmed that “up to” £20bn of efficiency savings were required over the four year period covered by the spending review, because of growing demand.

The spending review says: “The NHS has already committed to make up to £20bn of annual efficiency savings by the end of the spending review period through the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) programme.

“To ensure spending is focused on priorities, some programmes announced by the previous government but not yet implemented will not be taken forward.

“This includes free prescriptions for people with long term conditions, the right to one-to-one nursing for cancer patients, and the target of a one week wait for cancer diagnostics.”

The one-to-one commitment was announced in February, when the then government argued it would save £2.5bn by reducing hospital admissions. However, the then shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley warned it could cost £100m a year. Plans for the one week wait target were announced in September last year.

Proposals for free prescriptions for people with long term conditions were announced in 2008 and a review last year by Professor Ian Gilmore, then president of the Royal College of Physicians, supported the move.

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