Waldenström’s Macroglobulinaemia Stem Cell Treatments October 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the decision to cut funding for stem cell transplants for individuals suffering from Waldenström’s Macroglobulinaemia (WM) from NHS England’s specialised services.

I share your concerns about any patient being denied a treatment that could possibly save their life. Essential to the NHS is the idea that every patient has the right to receive the care that is appropriate, meets their needs, and reflects their treatment preferences. What is particularly concerning to me is the fact that this treatment was readily available before 2013 and is routinely carried out in other parts of the world.

WM is a terrible disease that effects over 400 patients a year in the UK, the majority of those seeking care are disproportionately men over the age of 65. These patients deserve care through our NHS which reflects their desires and their doctors’ recommendations. For many of these patients a stem cell treatment is the difference between successive and intensive chemotherapy or radiation treatments and the chance at a long life. In fact, many individuals who suffered from WM are alive today because of a second stem cell transplant through the NHS.

On July 11th of 2016 the Conservative government’s NHS announced provisional changes to their specialized services roster. Under this changed roster a second allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplant, a transplant originating from a healthy donor, for a relapsed disease was classified as Level 5. As a Level 5 procedure NHS England considers these transplants to be unaffordable and will not publish them as routinely commissioned. David Mowat, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, responded to a written question on the 12th of September noting that an impact assessment provided by the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group estimated that up to 22 patients per year by 2021 might be affected by the decision of this Conservative government and NHS England.

The Conservatives have put the wrong values at its heart, and patients are finding it harder to get the care they need. This decision, and many more like it, demonstrate that the Government needs to do much more to improve cancer care, support and treatment. Since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act was introduced, the commissioning of national specialised services is a core responsibility of NHS England. Various criteria are considered before NHS England decides to commission a specialised service, primarily based about two main criteria of clinical benefit and cost of delivering the service.  It is the position of the Labour Party that we will maintain the commissioning of specialised services at a national level in order to maintain a high level of expertise, which is required to ensure that decisions like these are made fairly, morally, and intelligently.

I believe that the decision to not routinely offer a second round of stem cell treatment to those suffering from WM is abhorrent. I believe that all individuals suffering from any form of blood cancer, including WM, should have unfettered access to the best treatments available for their condition that offer the best chance of a cure, including second round of stem cell transplants.

The NHS is one of our nation’s greatest institutions, and one of Labour’s proudest achievements.

I fully support the 2015 Labour Party Manifesto, which promised to protect, improve and invest in the NHS, as we always did in our previous Government and will continue to do if re-elected. The manifesto also proposed to create a Cancer Treatments Fund so patients have access to the latest drugs, surgery and radiotherapy. We also committed to increasing spending for the NHS by £2.5 billion to pay for thousands of frontline staff.

Thank you very much for writing to me and for sharing your views. I will continue to campaign on this issue ensure patients with WM are not denied the treatment that could save their life. I will also continue to bear your concerns in mind as and when this issue is debated further in Parliament.