Government launches £200 million a year Cancer Drugs Fund

Delivering on NHS modernisation: Government launches £200 million a year Cancer Drugs Fund, as raft of improvements is rolled out in the new financial year

  • Published date:
    1 April 2011

A £200 million a year Cancer Drugs Fund that will help cancer patients get greater access to cancer drugs their doctors recommend for them, was launched by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today.

The commencement of the fund follows the successful £50m interim fund that has helped over 2,000 cancer patients from across England gain access to life-extending drugs since October last year.

The Cancer Drugs Fund is just one of a number of commitments made reality today.  From 1 April:

  • hospitals will be fined £250 per day for every breach of mixed sex accommodation;
  • the NHS will be more involved in post-discharge support, with hospitals responsible for any readmissions within 30 days of discharge;
  • the extended list of 25 ‘Never Events’ become enshrined in the NHS Contract, helping to ensure greater patient safety; and
  • new A and E and ambulance indicators replace process-driven targets.

The Cancer Drugs Fund will see a further £600 million invested over three years by the Coalition Government which is committed to making the NHS more responsive to patients and to increasing access to innovative new drugs that extend life or improve quality of life.

Clinically-led panels have been established across England that put doctors in charge of deciding how this funding is spent for their patients locally, together with advice from patients’ cancer specialists.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“We have delivered on the promise in our Coalition Agreement to create a Cancer Drugs Fund, first by implementing the £50 million interim fund last October, and now with a £200 million a year main fund. This demonstrates how our plans to modernise the NHS are directly benefitting patients.

“The interim fund has already helped over 2,000 cancer patients across England. We are confident that the £600 million Cancer Drugs Fund will, over the next three years, continue to meet this previously unmet need and improve the lives of many thousands more cancer sufferers, giving them precious extra time with their loved ones.

“Our commitment to the values of the NHS is providing high quality care for everyone and ensuring nobody is excluded from getting the treatments and drugs that their doctors think will help them.”

Trevor Lines, a grandfather from Colchester in Essex, who is being treated with the drug Everolimus that is funded through the Interim Cancer Drugs Fund, said:

“If I wasn’t on this drug I’d probably be dead. It has definitely extended my life. Most people with this type of cancer die within five years, but I’m still here. There are side effects, but when you breathe in the air and look out at the sunshine you realise it’s all worthwhile.
“I’m now continuing to live rather than expecting to die in the next six months. I’m still leading a fairly normal life. It’s enabled me to do an awful lot. I know I’m going to die but taking this drug has given me time to plan for the future and arrange everything for my funeral and for my family after I’m gone. I think I’m very lucky.”

Professor Adrian Newland CBE, Director of the North East London Cancer Network, said:

“The work that we put into developing the Interim Cancer Drugs Fund over the last 6 months has been crucial in helping us give patients access to drugs that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Through the scheme, many patients have now received treatment that we know is likely to be clinically effective.

“The Interim Cancer Drugs Fund has been an excellent example of how we can give patients access to the newer, innovative treatments that have real potential.”

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of North West Cancer Drug Fund Panel, said:

“In the North West, we have seen increased access to drugs for patients with rarer cancers through the Cancer Drug Fund, and a reduction in the postcode prescribing of these drugs. We are now looking forward to auditing the outcomes of these treatments once clinical data is sufficiently mature.”
The Cancer Drugs Fund is in addition to what Primary Care Trusts already spend, and clinicians can still apply locally to Primary Care Trusts for exceptional funding of drugs not normally available..

All drugs recommended as clinically and cost effective by NICE will continue to be funded by the NHS. NICE will continue to appraise most significant new drugs, and will have an important part to play in our longer-term plans to introduce value-based pricing for new medicines.

Notes to editors:

1. The £50m interim cancer drugs funding started on 1 October 2010 and was announced on 27 July 2010:

2.  Professor Sir Mike Richards’ report International Variations of Drug Usage can be found at:

3. The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 was published on Wednesday 19 January 2011 This takes forward the primary legislation required to implement the Government’s vision for the NHS, set out in the White Paper Liberating the NHS (July 2010) and Liberating the NHS: Legislative framework and next steps (December 2010). The Bill and related documents can be found on the DH website at: 

4. The Cancer Drugs Fund operates for three years from 1 April 2011 and was developed using the views of healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the public who took part in a consultation that started on 27 October 2010 and ended on 19 January 2011

5. For more information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.

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