Think tank challenges Tory 'sleight of hand' over cancer drug funding
By Lilian Anekwe
The King's Fund has questioned the funding source for a Conservative pledge to spend £200m on cancer drugs ruled out by NICE.
The Conservative shadow health team this week announced two new policies to help fund drugs for patients with rarer cancers – a boost in funding for drugs that are rejected by NICE, and reform of the current drug funding system so that patients can be given off-label cancer drug treatments.
Under the Tory plans, the money would come from savings the NHS would make as an employer by raising national insurance by less than Labour in 2011, and from money saved through ‘cash-releasing efficiency savings'.
Unveiling the new policies, David Cameron said: ‘We want to get more drugs to people more quickly and in the UK today there are some people, thousands of people, who want a certain cancer drug whose doctors tell them they should have a certain cancer drug who don't get it.'
‘So we are saying because we are not going ahead with this National Insurance increase, that will save the NHS money and we are going to put that money into a cancer drugs fund.'
But Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, said the plans rested on using cash the NHS did not currently have.
‘This is like making a saving on a tax that hasn't been implemented yet, so it's not a cost that the NHS has to bear at the moment,' he said.
‘It's a sleight of hand in the sense that the money isn't there to be saved yet, so the money will have to come out of existing budgets.'
The plans were also attacked by health secretary Andy Burnham, who described them as ‘a shallow attempt to grab headlines rather than tackle the real issue.'Professor John Appleby: ‘It's a sleight of hand in the sense that the money isn't there to be saved yet, so the money will have to come out of existing budgets' Professor John Appleby: ‘It's a sleight of hand in the sense that the money isn't there to be saved yet, so the money will have to come out of existing budgets' Follow the latest with Pulse's election tracker Election 2010