Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cancer Drugs Fund under spend is costing lives

Radiopharmaceuticals more commonly known as radiotherapy is a precise/localised way of targeting cancer. It causes less damage to the tissues around the cancer area than chemotherapy because it is so precise/localised. Results show it is 8 times more successful than Chemotherapy. If you wish to geek out on original EU guidelines on the storage and safe usage of radiopharmaceuticals then please follow this link (here).

In October 2010, the Tories announced a cancer drugs fund of up to £200,000,000. This was a good decision and one which should have led to 1000s of lives throughout the 28 Cancer Network areas of England being saved. Conceivably, the £200m could have paid for this radiotherapy treatment. 

The sad fact is that there is currently a severe under spend in the Cancer Drugs Fund. Only £71,000,000 has been spent so far this year. Even the Tory newspapers accept that this is potentially costing thousands of lives per year (here). What's more, the Cancer Drug Networks of the North East, North West, Yorks & Humberside, South West and Midlands are missing out on this radiotherapy treatment. Instead patients in those regions are either being offered chemotherapy treatment, or are too ill to undergo that treatment. Especially for the latter category of patients, it is imperative that they have the radiotherapy treatment made available. Thus far, the only sites offering the treatment are 2 private clinics and three southern hospitals.

Tonight, we in Labour Left are launching a campaign to a) ensure all of the Cancer Drugs Fund is spent and that b) The spending is allocated fairly throughout the 28 Cancer Networks. This will allow local areas to decide if they wish to avail of this radiotherapy treatment. Our Chairperson, and Health Select Committee Member, Grahame Morris MP (Easington), has been making the case on the Committee and in lobbying the government for some time. Grahame argues, "It makes no sense for the Cancer Drugs Fund to under spend in this way and relinquish resources back to the central NHS pot". He also warned, "People are dying on Lansley's watch because they are not being offered treatments that could save their lives. It is an insult to their families to deny them this avenue especially when the funds are there". 

Thus far the government have shown flashes of willingness to engage on the issue. Unfortunately, of the £200m fund, the government retain £60m locally and decide how it should be spent. In addition, there is no requirement that the £140m is evenly spread, or that there is guidance given on the radiotherapy treatment. Paul Burstow claims that he is willing to set aside an additional £150m over 3 years but this has not materialized in DoH guidance on resources available for the Cancer Drugs Fun (see here).

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