Labour sets out their plans for future cancer care

By December 10, 2014EU

By Nicolle Laurie, Consultant, London

The Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, made an important policy announcement at the Britain Against Cancer conference yesterday (9th December); declaring that if Labour are elected in 2015 they will create a new £330 million cancer fund, as well as publish a new cancer strategy within six months. This Fund would start in 2016 and coincide with the expiry of the current Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

Burnham’s announcement yesterday was not simply a rebranding exercise. The CDF currently has a yearly budget of £280 million; however Burnham explained that his party would look to increase this to £330 million. In addition, Labour’s Fund would be used to pay for all types of cancer treatment; including the latest forms of radiotherapy, surgery and drugs. This is in contrast to the CDF which is only used to fund cancer drugs.

Cancer Research UK were ‘delighted’ with Burnham’s announcement, however it does raise a question as to how far does an additional £50 million stretch? In November the CDF had to receive an additional injection of funding to keep it functioning, increasing the yearly budget from £200 million to £280 million. At the same time it was also announced that the CDF would be reassessing over 40 drugs, which followed news that a number of cancer drugs would not be made available through the CDF due to their high cost; this included the breast cancer treatment, Kadcyla.

Although the additional £50 million that Burnham has pledged to a Labour cancer fund will undoubtedly be welcomed by many, it’s worth highlighting that the fund will now have to stretch that much further to cover radiotherapy, surgery, as well as cancer drug treatments. When we are talking about an extremely prevalent disease, with statistics showing that 1 in 3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, Burnham’s announcement should be greeted with optimism, but a dash of caution.

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