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Cancer Drugs Fund

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

Since October 2010, more than 23,000 patients in England and more than 1,600 patients in NHS East Midlands have benefited from the additional £650 million funding for cancer drugs that this Government have committed to providing.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, but I have previously raised in the House a constituency case where the NHS East Midlands cancer drugs fund would not pay for drugs that other CDFs would pay for, such as Avastin for second-line treatment of bowel cancer. Sadly, my constituent has since died because she could not get funding for the drugs she needed, having spent all her own money funding the treatment herself. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and my late constituent’s consultant, Dr Bessell, to discuss how we can end this postcode lottery?

Proud as we are of the cancer drugs fund, to hear such stories is extremely distressing, and our first thoughts are with the family of my hon. Friend’s constituent. We will of course look into the issue she raises, which is a cause of great concern. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), is a neighbouring MP and would be happy to meet her to discuss the matter.

The reality is that the Government are ripping away the foundations of better cancer care. The former Health Secretary made a clear promise from the Dispatch Box to protect cancer network funding, but the NHS South East London and greater midlands cancer networks both say that their budgets and staff have been slashed. The NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, says that cancer networks are an NHS success story, and Macmillan Cancer Support says it is nonsensical to cut their specialist expertise. Why do the Government not agree?

Cancer networks are here to stay and their budget has been protected. They are extremely important. The hon. Lady uses hyperbolic phrases such as “ripping away the foundations of better cancer care”, so perhaps she would like to talk to the 23,000 people who have benefited from the cancer drugs fund that her Government failed to introduce.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the cancer drugs fund and the ring-fencing of the budget for cancer, which delivers important benefits in research, not least by funding new treatments by new companies that would not otherwise be able to sell their product and by generating important evidence on health economics. As a Mo-bro, I am very aware that medicines are better than surgery. Will he give the House some reassurance that the Government plan to renew the cancer drugs fund?

We are committed to finding a way of ensuring that people who have benefited from the cancer drugs fund—23,000 to date—can continue to receive that kind of support. That is something we can do because we protected the NHS budget, unlike the Labour party, which wanted to cut it.