18,500 patients receive treatment through Cancer Drugs Fund

In collaboration with the Press Association

A temporary government scheme has allowed thousands of cancer patients in England to receive drugs that are not routinely available on the NHS, according to new figures released today.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was set up by the coalition government to pay for cancer drugs that have not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and are not available within the NHS in England.

The new figures, published by the National Cancer Action Team, also provide a breakdown of the cancer drugs provided in each region of England. This information is aimed at allowing people to challenge any local variations in the drugs available through the Fund.

But there is no information about how patients fared following treatment via the Fund, which will be available until 2014.

Heather Walker, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, welcomed the figures, but pointed out that the government had yet to announce details of the system that will replace the Fund in 2014.

"It is good news that the Cancer Drugs Fund has enabled around 18,000 patients to access drugs they may not have otherwise had. We hope value-based pricing - a new drug pricing scheme which will come into force in 2014 - will help to maintain this and it is important that details of this new scheme are widely publicised soon".

But she cautioned that cancer treatment is not just about drugs and said that that other treatments such as radiotherapy need to be prioritised.

"Long term, sustainable funding solutions need to be found for all effective cancer treatments, so that patients are given the care their doctors think will be best for them," she added.

Ministers have allocated £650 million to be spent on cancer treatments that are not yet available on the NHS in England.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation, a UK organisation that offers general advice and information about rare and less common cancers, also expressed concern about the lack of longer term plans.

"The impact of cancer will not stop in 2014. It is concerning that no arrangements are in place to ensure that patients continue to get access to these drugs." said Rarer Cancers Foundation chief executive Andrew Wilson.

Copyright Press Association 2012