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Cancer Drugs: Funding

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 20 April 2017

1. What assessment the Commission has made of the effectiveness of the National Audit Office’s scrutiny of the long-term viability of funding for cancer drugs. (909689)

I can inform the House that the NAO published an investigation into the cancer drugs fund in September 2015, which set out the facts relating to the fund to inform consideration of what had been achieved. The NAO’s investigation followed up on a number of concerns raised during the earlier work on progress in improving cancer services. The investigation found that all parties agreed that the fund was not sustainable in its form at the time, and that NHS England was proposing a new arrangement for the fund. It also noted that NHS England did not have the data to evaluate the impact of the existing fund on patient outcomes.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Can he tell the House whether the Public Accounts Committee has actually looked at this issue?

I can indeed. This is a very serious matter that everybody wants to improve, so the Public Accounts Committee followed up on the National Audit Office investigation and recommended that the Department of Health and NHS England make better use of their buying power in order to pay a fair price for cancer drugs and improve data on patient outcomes. The NAO also followed up on several related issues in an April 2016 report. It recommended that the Department and NHS England should, in collaboration with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, consider affordability and ensure best prices for high-cost drugs.

The findings show that although 40 cancer drugs were available through the cancer drugs fund in 2013-14 and 2014-15, some 71% of patients were covered by the 10 most common drugs. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that surely that indicates a need to move those 10 drugs on to the NHS list? Does he believe those findings have had any effect on Government policy on cancer drugs and the cancer drugs fund?

Which drugs are approved by NICE is of course not a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General, but I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. He makes his point well and I am sure the House has heard it.

I would like to ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman), what the Church of England is doing to help to protect churches throughout Northumberland from the theft of metal from their roofs.

I rather thought that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) was posing a supplementary to Question 1, which was the basis upon which I called her. Never mind; it is not a great sin.

I have a feeling that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) has an insatiable appetite, and there is no change there.

Thank you for that compliment, Mr Speaker.

Is the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) aware of the real challenge, which has been brought to my attention by the excellent team at Huddersfield royal infirmary, that it is rare cancers that are the problem because they are very expensive to develop drugs for? There is a special case to be made for the treatment of and supply of drugs for these rare cancers. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of that minority group?

I am aware of that group, and the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We all hear in our constituency surgeries the heart-rending cases of people who are denied life-saving drugs. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee are fully aware of this issue and are going to continue to put pressure on the Government with regard to the cancer drugs fund to ensure full transparency so that we are always aware of the problems and can assure affordability for all our citizens.