UK Government

Department of Health (National): Strictly Embargoed Press Release 00:01, 1 October 2010 £50 million kick-starts greater access to cancer drugs

Press Release   •   Sep 30, 2010 12:22 BST

Cancer patients will from today (1 October) have greater access to cancer drugs that their doctors recommend for them due to an extra £50 million in funding being made available by the Department of Health.

Following Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's announcement in July, from today, an extra £50 million will be made available to help thousands of patients get increased access to innovative new cancer drugs that extend life or improve quality of life. Clinically led panels have been set up in each region, putting doctors in charge of deciding how this funding is spent for their patients locally, together with advice from patients’ cancer specialists. The funding will be available from the 1st October until the end of March 2011 when the cancer drugs fund is introduced.

These arrangements are in line with the Government’s White Paper commitment to hand power back to clinicians and ensure NHS funds are spent in ways that secure the greatest benefit for patients. This additional £50 million funding will help clinicians and patient access drugs that NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has not been able to appraise positively due to concerns about cost effectiveness, or where it has not issued guidance, or where it has been unable to issue guidance.

It is additional to what Primary Care Trusts already spend, and clinicians can still apply locally to Primary Care Trusts for exceptional funding of drugs not normally available.

This is just the beginning of the Government’s longer term plans to improve patient access to cancer drugs and change the way the NHS pays for branded drugs in 2014. The funding has been made available from savings in central Department of Health budgets, which can now be redirected to frontline care for patients. This interim measure will help those cancer patients who need access to drugs this year, and has been identified in addition to the Cancer Drugs Fund due to commence in April next year.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“The additional £50 million funding for cancer drugs available from today is just the start of our plans to address the disparity in patients' access to cancer drugs in England compared to other countries.

“My aim is to truly empower patients by giving them more control over their care and helping them access the clinically effective drugs that their doctors believe could improve their quality of life. I know this will mean a lot to cancer sufferers, their carers and their families and I want to assure all patients that I am working towards longer term plans to change the way we pay for drugs so patients get better access to drugs and the NHS and taxpayers get better value for money.

“This funding is just one example of how we are putting the experts - clinicians - in charge of making decisions about the patients they know and treat and giving them control of budgets for local people.”

Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation said:

"The NHS should be there for you when you need it most. Patients should not have to battle the system to gain access to the drugs that their clinician feels they need. This fund should remove the uncertainty and fear associated with struggling to get treatments funded, putting power back in the hands of doctors and patients.  For patients, their families and clinicians, this is a major step forward."

A full public consultation on the 2011 Cancer Drugs Fund will take place this Autumn following the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review and will seek the views of healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the public.

Notes to editors

  • The £50m cancer drugs funding was announced on 27 July 2010:

  • This follows the Government's recent announcement of a new campaign that will alert people to the early signs of cancer and encourage them to get checked out, to be launched in January next year:

  • Professor Sir Mike Richards’ report International Variations of Drug Usage can be found at:

  • The White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, was published on 12 July 2010 and set out the Government’s strategy for the NHS.

  • For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
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