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Health: Cancer Drugs

Volume 705: debated on Monday 17 November 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, if a patient makes a top-up payment for a cancer drug, the National Health Service will continue to pay for the treatment if the patient runs out of money. [HL6161]

Any request for funding for a treatment that the National Health Service does not normally pay for would have to be considered on an exceptional basis by the relevant primary care trust. This includes circumstances where a patient who has been funding additional treatment privately runs out of money.

The draft revised guidance published by the department on NHS patients who wish to pay for additional private care, on 4 November 2008, makes it clear that “patients who pay for private care in these circumstances should not be put at any advantage or disadvantage in relation to the NHS care they receive. They are entitled to NHS services on exactly the same basis of clinical need as any other patient”.

On 4 November, the Secretary of State announced a range of measures to widen access to drugs on the NHS, which will, in fact, reduce the demand from patients for additional private care (Official Report, Commons, col. 131). For those few patients who may still wish to buy additional private care, the draft revised guidance makes it clear that no patient should lose his or her entitlement to NHS care as a result of choosing to purchase private care separately. The draft revised guidance emphasises that the NHS should never subsidise private care with public money, as this would breach core NHS principles. It also says that patients' agreement to the likely costs should be sought in advance of any private care being provided.

The Secretary of State's announcement was in response to the report, Improving Access to Medicines for NHS Patients, by Professor Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer, which can be found at Copies of the report have already been placed in the Library.