The blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is campaigning to: raise awareness of the stem cell register; encourage more people to sign up to the register; and ensure that every patient in need of a stem cell transplant can find a lifesaving donor. The campaign notes that every year in the UK, around 2000 blood cancer patients require a stem cell donor.
Stem cell transplants are used to treat conditions in which the bone marrow is damaged and is no longer able to produce health blood cells. A stem cell or bone marrow transplant replaces damaged blood cells with healthy ones. It can be used to treat various blood cancer conditions such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
I sympathise profoundly with anyone affected by blood cancer and I commend Anthony Nolan for the work it does in conducting vital research and supporting people with this disease. Earlier this year, the UK Stem Cell Register topped 1.4 million people. That is welcome news and I pay tribute to donors in our constituency and across the country who have selflessly volunteered to give someone a second chance at life.
The Stem Cell Register has given thousands of people the opportunity to have a transplant where they previously may not have been able to be matched with a donor. I support efforts to expand the register of potential donors, especially amongst younger people and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, who are particularly underrepresented on the current donor register.
The cancer strategy contains recommendations that could go a long way towards helping people living with blood cancer. It places a significant emphasis on the importance of improving the quality of life of patients after treatment and contains a specific recommendation that the NHS should ensure that people living with and beyond cancer are fully supported. I welcome that the Government has accepted all 96 recommendations. However, I am concerned that progress has stalled and I believe Ministers should publish a detailed update against these recommendations as soon as possible.
I believe we should set an ambition for the NHS to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe. Key to this will be improving early diagnosis and public awareness, as well as ensuring that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.
I will press the Government to promote the expansion of the stem cell register and to improve treatment and support for people with blood cancer.