Andy Burnham has been challenged during Commons question time over the government’s plans to tackle cancer.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS was suffering from a lack of staff trained to use key diagnostic equipment, while Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Sandra Gidley demanded to know whether ageing kit would be replaced.

The health secretary said the government was investing to provide people with the “very best cancer care” by switching funding from the hospital building programme.

Mr Lansley said: “Surely you must know that the issue is not primarily in the NHS now about the capital resources for additional diagnostics but the staffing to support them.

“There is diagnostic equipment which could be better used if there were more radiographers and sonographers.”

The number of radiographers had risen from 12,500 in 2000 to 14,500 in 2006, Mr Burnham said, with a planned increase to 17,500 by 2012.

“That is a genuine commitment to invest in the workforce and in the equipment that gives people in this country the best possible chance of survival from cancer,” he added.

Ms Gidley said some cancer equipment was “coming to the end of its useful life”.

“What plans are there to make sure that the equipment and staff are there in the future?” she asked.

Mr Burnham replied: “What we are doing by re-prioritising our spending plans is to get the funding into that equipment, switching away from the hospital building programme.”