Future of Cancer Drugs Fund divides parties

Shadow Health secretary Andy Burnham
Shadow Health secretary Andy Burnham
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THE Government has recommitted itself to the Cancer Drugs Fund as Labour announces it would increase funds for specialist treatments.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has promised that a Labour Government would establish a £330 million fund to improve access to cutting-edge surgery and radiotherapy as well as the latest drugs if it gains power in next year’s general election.

The scheme would build upon and expand the Cancer Drugs Fund, which was set up under the 2011 strategy to give NHS cancer patients access to the latest new medicines and is due to expire at the end of March 2016.

Labour’s scheme would be established by adding £50 million from a rebate paid by the pharmaceutical industry to the £280 million budget of the existing fund.

Mr Burnham said: “The problem with cancer policy under the current Government is that it prioritises one form of cancer treatment over others and places one group of patients ahead of another.

“This is indefensible when we know surgery and radiotherapy are responsible for nine in 10 cases where cancer is cured.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt told a conference in Westminster that he would “continue to champion” the fund, which was proving “increasingly important” in extending patients’ lives.

He cautioned that “we need to make sure that we live within the budget of the CDF, because if we don’t that will impact on other cancer treatments and other treatments across the NHS”.

It comes as a new Government report showed an estimated 12,000 lives are being saved each year in England as a result of reforms introduced under the Government’s National Cancer Strategy - well over the 5,000 target set when the strategy was published in 2011.

The figures were released as NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens announced he had instructed the NHS to draw up an updated national cancer plan for England through 2020.