OPINION: A new cancer plan to save lives

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By Labour list MP Jo Luxton

It was incredible walking down the main street of Timaru in the lead-up to Daffodil Day 2019.

I saw so many shop windows decorated in yellow and collectors basking in the sun, and I had a beautiful bunch of daffodils in my office.

South Canterbury really does get behind Daffodil Day and supports the fantastic work that the South Canterbury Cancer Society does locally.

Being told you or someone you love has cancer is one of the scariest experiences anyone can face. But that’s what happens to 66 New Zealanders every single day.

Cancer touches just about every one of us at some stage in our lives. Our fathers, mothers, children, friends, workmates.

Labour is committed to better cancer care. New Zealanders deserve world-class support, from prevention and early diagnosis to treatment and palliative care.

That’s why we recently announced the Cancer Action Plan – so everyone battling cancer in New Zealand can get the best possible care, no matter where they live. It shouldn’t matter if you live here in South Canterbury, Auckland or Invercargill – we all deserve the best care in order to give us the best chance of survival.

We’re making sure people can access the medicines they need, faster. We’ve boosted Pharmac’s funding and it is speeding up its decision-making process. This funding boost is immediate.

We’re establishing a Cancer Control Agency to provide leadership on cancer care.

We’re investing more in prevention and early detection, because identifying cancer at an early stage saves lives.

And we’re making sure people in our regions can access radiation treatment, by funding 12 new linear accelerator machines, including the first ones in Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Northland.

Together, these changes will mean better cancer care for you and your family, ensuring you can get the care you need, when and where you need it. They’re part of the wider work we’re doing to rebuild our health system, fix our rundown hospitals and make it easier for people to access care, through initiatives like cheaper GP visits and bowel cancer screening.

Modernising our approach to cancer care and improving survival rates is a long-term challenge, but we’re making good progress.

Jacinda Ardern is leading our team, delivering the change New Zealanders are calling for. After nine years of neglect, too many social issues were ignored and now we are paying the price. Getting things back on track is going to take time, but we’re making a good start.

Cancer is our greatest killer, with about 10,000 deaths each year. That won’t be solved overnight. But this plan will deliver earlier detection, and better treatment. It will save lives.

It is all part of our plan to make sure every New Zealander can have access to a world-class health system.

If you or a loved one have been affected by cancer, we’d like your feedback on our plan. Please take the opportunity to tell us your thoughts here: https://consult.health.govt.nz/cancer-services/cancer-action-plan/