Cautious optimism from Cancer Society for Labour's cancer plan

  • 24/07/2017

Labour's plan to make cancer care open to every Kiwi - no matter where they live - has got a cautious thumbs-up from the Cancer Society.

But the organisation wants to see a lot more detail.

Labour promised on Sunday to open a National Cancer Agency to give all New Zealanders access to the same level of cancer treatment.

Leader Andrew Little is concerned cancer care can be "a post code lottery".

"The idea of a national cancer agency has a lot of merit," Cancer Society spokesperson Mike Kernaghan told The AM Show.

"We'd certainly like to talk to any political party with respect to that."

"If you look at Australia and Canada - and they both have national cancer agencies - their survivorship rates are higher than here in New Zealand."

"I'm not suggesting that the cancer agency is going to solve all of the problems, but certainly it appears to have some merit, it works overseas in those two countries... so why not? Let's at least discuss what some detail around it might look like."

There are definitely issues with the current system for some areas outside the main centres.

"Look, there was a Ministry of Health report that came out very recently that identified that if you lived in Northland, South Canterbury or Nelson/Marlborough, you were less likely to get radiation therapy than if you lived in Wellington, Waikato or Christchurch - so clearly there are some inequities in the system, and it is about, at the end of the day, equity of access to good treatment," Mr Kernaghan said.

AM Show host Duncan Garner was concerned equitable access to cancer treatment nationwide would cost too much for a smaller economy such as ours, and Mr Kernaghan agreed that could be the case.

"You can throw a lot of money at these things and not necessarily guarantee success. That's why the detail around the agency is very, very important. We must make sure that the strategies that are developed actually are appropriate for New Zealand and will work for every New Zealander - no matter where they live."

"We'd love to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to Labour about what that detail might look like."

Details are scarce from Labour so far. The National Cancer Agency would initially cost $20 million and it promises to develop a national cancer plan if it is elected to government in September.

It is part of its campaign promise of $8 billion of health spending to redress what it calls the National Government's $2.3 billion underspend in the sector.

But Prime Minister Bill English has rubbished the idea.

"Creating another bureaucracy is not going to create more cancer treatment," Mr English said.

"It's marketing - it's just another bureaucracy."