Ministers are being asked to back a £50million plan that will provide cancer care treatment and support more than 1.5 million people and families across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

Mayor Dan Jarvis, MPs and leaders from across the political divide have written to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock urging him to invest and transform Weston Park Cancer Centre.

While cancer services were maintained throughout the COVID pandemic in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, current estimates suggest that there were around 7,000 fewer cancer referrals and 500 fewer cancers diagnosed between March and December 2020.

Mayor Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “Weston Park Cancer Centre is a hugely significant asset for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw and is one of only a handful of specialist facilities in the country that provides dedicated patient care. Each and every day they are transforming people’s lives with world leading cancer care and research, offering personalised care and support.

“The facility is now in urgent need of refurbishment and the plans that have been developed would deliver cutting edge innovation through cancer treatment in novel chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy. Put simply, the £50m proposal would support improved provision of NHS oncology services to 1.5 million people across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw with the potential to significantly improve the outcomes of patients with cancer.

“We have a shovel-ready plan that will transform the lives of cancer patients, not just in South Yorkshire, but across the country. Political leaders are united behind this plan and we now need the government to back us.”

Kirsten Major, Chief Executive, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Weston Park Cancer Centre is one of four dedicated cancer hospitals in the NHS in England and has always been at the forefront of cancer care and research. We have some of the best cancer specialists in Europe working in the Centre, but we need to match the facilities we have with that expertise in order to continue to deliver the most advanced care possible for patients.

“Prior to the pandemic we had developed exciting plans to create a world class cancer treatment and research centre in partnership with the University of Sheffield. The pandemic has made this ever more urgent as we know there will be a significant increase in cancer referrals, diagnosis and treatments over the coming years. A world class facility which enables researchers to work alongside clinicians and patients to advance care at every opportunity is now a necessity especially with the new opportunities being presented by genomics and advanced imaging and treatments.  The only thing stopping this next step in facilities for cancer care and research at the moment is having sufficient funding to make this development a reality.”

The call comes as the World Health Organisation recently acknowledged that one of the gravest threats posed by COVID is its potential to create a cancer epidemic. It’s estimated that delayed diagnosis and treatment in the United Kingdom are expected to result in an increase in the number of deaths from colorectal cancer by 15%, and 9% for breast cancer over the next five years.