Why I Don't Advocate a Welsh Cancer Drugs Fund; amid Ongoing Calls from Patients and Opposition Politicians for a Welsh Cancer Drugs Fund, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths Explains Why It's Not the Right Option for Wales

Article excerpt

IT IS a sad fact one in three of us will develop cancer at some point. When the diagnosis is given, it changes your life.

As Health Minister, I am sensitive to the plight of people with cancer and I refuse to be brow-beaten into making the wrong decisions for patients in Wales.

I think it is vitally important to openly address this debate.

The Welsh Government and the NHS share a strong ethical commitment to cancer patients and we have a very different approach to our neighbours in England when it comes to funding the treatment of cancer.

The cancer drugs fund in England was claimed to be worth pounds 600m over three years. That was pounds 200m a year for a population of more than 51 million people in England.

However, the NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has made clear the money for this fund comes primarily from claw-backs from primary care trust budgets - not from new money.

In Wales, more than 43% of the Welsh Government's total budget is allocated to health. We spend more than pounds 70m a year on drugs for cancer patient - pounds 4.50 more per head on cancer care than England.

When you drill down to what is really spent as opposed to sitting in a pot in England the figures are quite shocking.

A written answer in the House of Commons on April 18 showed of the pounds 200m allocated to the cancer drugs fund in 2011-12, there was an underspend of pounds 150m. So only pounds 50m was spent for a population of more than 50 million people and this money was allocated in a way that ensured it is a huge postcode lottery.

Patients in Wales with cancer receive the best, evidencebased treatment as recommended by the All-Wales Medical Strategy Group (AWMSG) or the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

There have been some strong accusations flying around lately, such as that patients in Wales are five times less likely to have access to a cancer medicine with a proven evidence base - whether for a new or established and effective medicine - than their counterparts in England.

I cannot see the justification, or indeed the evidence, to back up these claims.

The cancer drugs fund in England misleads and raises false hopes. NHS Wales, on the other hand, supports the use of new and established therapies across all disease categories where there is a proven cost-effective evidence base. …