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Chair's statement on investigation into the cancer drug fund

17 September 2015

A statement from Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:

Chair's statement

"Getting access to the right treatment is vital for any patient and particularly those dealing with illnesses such as cancer. It is good news that the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped more than 74,000 patients since it was first set up in 2010, providing them with medication they could not normally access through the NHS.

However, at a time of increased pressures on NHS funding, the Cancer Drugs Fund is not sustainable in its current form. If patients are going to get access to the drugs they need, there needs to be much better control of costs and proper assessment of whether these drugs are making a difference to the health of patients. NHS England spent £416 million on the Fund in 2014–15, 48% more than planned, and neither the Department of Health nor NHS England knows what impact the Cancer Drugs Fund has had in extending the lives of the patients treated. Given the need to make informed choices about how to spend finite resources wisely, it makes no sense that the Department and NHS England lack the data needed to assess the effectiveness of the Cancer Drugs Fund and whether it is the best way to care for patients.

NHS England is now having to make tough choices over which drugs to fund. In April 2015, after a review of clinical effectiveness and cost, it attempted to control costs by for the first time removing some drugs from the list of those available. NHS England initially forecast this would save £80 million over the next year, but now expects the actual saving to be less. Earlier this month, it announced proposals to remove more drugs from the list. Despite this, it does not expect to avoid over-spending the Fund's budget for 2015–16.

The Department of Health, NHS England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the pharmaceutical companies now need to work together to ensure the Cancer Drugs Fund is sustainable and can deliver for the patients who need access to these drugs."

Further information

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