Tuesday, 14 June 2011 13:53


New report from the Rarer Cancers Foundation assesses measures to improve access to cancer treatments

The Rarer Cancers Foundation’s new report, Funding Cancer Drugs: An evaluation of the impact of policies to improve access to cancer treatments has found that over 2,500 cancer patients have had treatment provided through the Cancer Drugs Fund. It also shows that 187 patients were denied access to life-extending treatment between October 2010 and March 2011. This is despite the fact that strategic health authorities (SHAs) had a combined Cancer Drugs Fund underspend of £22.5 million at the end of March 2011.

It also revealed a north-south divide in approvals, with SHAs in the south of England approving a lower proportion of applications. For example, NHS South Central approved approximately 75% of applications whereas NHS North East approved every application it received.

Other key findings include:

  • The Cancer Drugs Fund is enabling patients to access up to 34 treatments which otherwise would not have been routinely available on the NHS
  • Patients with bowel, kidney and blood cancers have been amongst the most significant beneficiaries of the Cancer Drugs Fund
  • The application rate varies dramatically by SHA. For example, NHS South Central receives two and a half times as many applications per capita as neighbouring NHS South West
  • Demand and costs are in line with the RCF’s forecasts for the Cancer Drugs Fund. However the proportion of funds used by each SHA varies dramatically. For example, NHS South West used less than one quarter of its allocated funds, whereas NHS Yorkshire and the Humber reported that it had used slightly more than its allocated budget.

The report makes 30 recommendations about the important lessons that can be learned from the operation of the Cancer Drugs Fund during the first six months.

Commenting on the report Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive of the RCF, said: “It is great news that thousands of patients have already benefited from the Cancer Drugs Fund. However we are concerned that nearly two hundred patients have been denied life-extending treatment, despite money going unspent and the emergence of significant regional variations in approval rates.”

The RCF has also today published updated SHA briefings on the operation of the Cancer Drugs Fund. These updated briefings include a breakdown of treatment applications between October 2010 and March 2011; set out how the process for accessing funding operates in each area; and where relevant, include a list of treatments that will automatically be available through the Fund.

They can be viewed here

The full report can be viewed here