This site is intended for health professionals only

Warning over cancer drugs fund for GP consortia

By Lilian Anekwe

Government policy on cancer drugs will cause huge problems by raising expectations that cannot be matched, NHS managers implementing the £50 million Interim Cancer Drugs Fund have warned.

The fund came into effect last month to cover requests for cancer treatments not approved by NICE until the fully fledged cancer fund becomes available in April next year. But fund managers at regional level fear that the cash will not cover all the treatments patients want and will create cross-border and regional variations in care.

Professor Chris Welsh, director of care, quality and productivity at Yorkshire and the Humber SHA warned a regional meeting there were a number of risks associated with the fund, including the way it had been set up, the prioritisation of certain medicines and on the outcome of individual applications.

And there was a ‘considerable risk’ that the fund would be too small, with no additional money to meet any shortfall created by excess demand. Cross-border and regional variations were also likely to arise, he said.

His comments came as GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman told a meeting of policy makers in Westminster last week that the policy of asking GP consortia rather than NICE to decide the value of drugs would also raise patients’ expectations.

Giving the example of the breast cancer treatment herceptin, he posed the question of what would happen if one consortium offered it and others did not. Dr Buckman asked: ‘Can you imagine the unbelievable health tourism that´s going to generate?’

Dr Laurence Buckman