AMID the hubbub over what is or is not Islamophobic or anti-Semitic, one news story seemed to slip through very quietly yesterday.

It was a massive piece of research from University College London of 780,000 cancer patients in Australia, Canada, Norway and the UK which revealed that UK cancer survival rates are 15 years behind these other countries.

This, it said, was because UK patients do not get the same access to treatment as people in these other countries – for example, 31.5 per cent of UK cancer patients received chemotherapy compared to 42.1 per cent in Australia.

The average wait time to start chemotherapy in England was 48 days whereas in Norway it was 39 – and starting early is absolutely crucial to beating the disease.

This was because of NHS shortages of staff and equipment, and also because of a “fatalistic” attitude among doctors to older patients – for example, 2.4 per cent of UK patients aged 85 and over when diagnosed with cancer received chemotherapy whereas 14 per cent do in parts of Canada.

The stats in the Lancet, supported by organisations including Cancer Research UK, show that Britain is performing at levels the other countries were at 15 years ago.

This is historic research, examining statistics from 2014 to 2017, and since then the Department of Health says the UK has invested £162m in radiotherapy equipment and £2.3bn in Community Diagnostic Centres.

But do you think the other countries have done nothing to their health systems to allow us to catch up, sitting their drumming their fingers as NHS waiting lists rocket to record levels and the doctors’ strike goes unresolved for a year.

Yes, the debates about racism are important but if only a small portion of the energy devoted to them could be channelled into improving our NHS, every single person up and down the country might be able to see real benefits.