Cancer Drug Fund October 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) and the recent announcement that the CDF will no longer pay for 16 medicines used in 23 separate cancer treatments from November 2015.

This includes drugs currently used for treating breast, blood and pancreatic cancer and will mean that the number of treatments covered by the CDF will have reduced by more than half since the beginning of the year. 

I sympathise profoundly with anyone that is affected by this announcement and I recognise how vital it can be for cancer patients to be able to access the latest drugs, surgery and radiotherapy. 

Difficult decisions do need to be made about which treatments should be routinely available on the NHS and through the CDF, but I appreciate that patients may be particularly angry at this announcement as it follows previous assurances from the Government that they would invest in cancer drugs.

I know that organisations such as the Rarer Cancers Foundation have also criticised this decision and have urged the Government, drugs companies and the CDF to now work together to ensure these drugs can remain accessible.

I believe that the Government should look very carefully at how we can reform and improve the CDF so that it is sustainable and so that patients have routine access to a greater range of cancer drugs. I would also like the Government to consider how the NHS can better ensure that the latest forms of radiotherapy and surgery are available to those who desperately need it.

More widely, I believe we need to do much more to improve cancer treatment, early diagnosis and access to life-extending drugs. Indeed, the UK still has some of worse cancer survival rates in Europe, growing numbers of patients are waiting too long to get tested for cancer and the Government has repeatedly missed the two-month waiting-time target for cancer treatment. 

As you may be aware, I stood on a manifesto at the last election which made several commitments on cancer care and support, including guaranteeing cancer tests - such as abdominal ultrasound for ovarian cancer - and results within a week by 2020 as well as a new Cancer Treatment Fund to improve access to the latest drugs and treatments. The Shadow Health Secretary was also committed to asking the National Screening Committee to make recommendations regarding the introduction of an ovarian cancer screening programme. I hope the current Government will now take action on these important issues.

I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely and press the Government to do more to improve cancer care, services and access to life-extending drugs.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.