No-one in England will have to wait more than a week for cancer tests and results under a future Labour government, the party has pledged.
Labour said the £750m cost of implementing the pledge by 2020 would be covered by a levy on tobacco firms.
Party leader Ed Miliband said early diagnosis of cancer was “critical” and could save up to 10,000 lives a year.
But a government spokesman said Labour “simply can’t be trusted to deliver improvements in cancer care”.
There is currently a recommended six-week limit for diagnostic tests in England, including tests to diagnose cancer.
Latest figures show the number of people waiting longer than this is increasing.
‘Longer final diagnosis’
Suzy Lishman, vice president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said: “We’d all agree that diagnosing cancer at an early stage is a good thing to do but the important thing for the public to understand is that this doesn’t mean that all cancer tests would be done and a final diagnosis made within seven days.
“It’s likely to take more tests and it’s likely to take longer.”
Shadow health minister Liz Kendall denied suggestions Labour’s promise was a gimmick.
“What’s really important is that GPs can, when they need tests done, get them done quickly, that the staff are available to make sure that those tests happen and that people get the results back swiftly too,” she said.
“This is what the Royal College of GPs and radiologists say should be the best practice and that’s what we should aim for.”
Labour says that within a week of being referred by their GP, a patient would have received both their tests and their results, meaning patients can start treatment sooner and suffer less anxiety while waiting for results.
Labour is also promising a one-week target for “all urgent diagnostics” – not just cancer – by 2025…read more.