A new cancer drugs fund was announced by the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in July 2010. The West Midlands was given £5.4m by the Government to set up a regional cancer drug fund to help patients get access to new cancer drugs. This money was available up to the end of March 2011.
It was announced on 1 April 2011 that the Cancer Drugs Fund will see a further £600 million invested over three years by the Coalition Government. Of the £200 million available for 2012/13, the West Midlands’ share is £21m.
The following information sets out how the process works. If you have any more questions you should speak to your cancer specialist.
Who can apply to use the fund?
The fund is to help patients who are having difficulty accessing some cancer drugs now. Funding requests can only be made by cancer specialists, on behalf of patients, to Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). This means that a doctor will make an application on your behalf. The main reason for this is that other services are needed to help administer drugs and the hospitals need to be able to provide them.
The fund is to pay for additional treatments which the NHS does not currently pay for. All other avenues for accessing cancer drug funding at a local level need to have been tried before applying for the regional fund. In particular your doctor should have already made an application to your local primary care trust through the usual processes.
How can I access the fund?
Patients will access the cancer funding through their cancer doctors, and individual patients should continue to discuss treatment options with their cancer specialist to decide what the best treatment is for them.
Who makes decisions about how the fund is used?
NHS West Midlands (the Strategic Health Authority) has set up a process to make sure that the extra funding is used properly. Doctors will be put in charge of deciding how the funding is spent for their patients locally based on the advice of cancer specialists.
A clinical panel of cancer specialists will decide how this extra funding is best used for their patients on the behalf of the 17 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the West Midlands.
Which drugs will it fund?
The panel will decide which new cancer drugs are made available through the fund and which are not. The interim Cancer Drugs Fund policy, application form and policies for approved drugs can be found here.
As decisions are made, the information will be posted on the NHS West Midlands website and shared with primary care trusts and cancer specialists in local hospitals. The current list of prioritised drugs will be published on this website as soon as they have been approved. In the meantime clinicians who wish to access the fund immediately on behalf of patients should apply individually using the application form on the website and send them through to the appropriate PCT as an individual funding request in the normal manner.
How will decisions be made?
PCTs will ask the panel of cancer specialists to consider applications to use the fund and make decisions on funding.
The clinically-led panel will consider drugs to be used for groups of patients and give highest priority to those drugs for which there is good clinical evidence that they work for the largest number of people. It will weigh up the potential benefits that new cancer drugs might offer and also consider what is known about how they affect the length and quality of life as well as likely side effects.
Who is on the panel?
The panel is clinically-led and includes doctors who specialise in the treatment of cancer. They make the decisions about how the fund will be used. They are supported by expert advisors such as pharmacists specialising in cancer medicines and public health doctors. The panel also has a lay member.
How long will it take for the panel to make a decision?
The aim is that decisions will normally be reached by the Cancer Drug Fund panel within three working days of a complete application being received.
What form of appeal process is there? If the panel denies someone funding for treatment, can the patient appeal?
A separate panel to consider appeals or where an application has been unsuccessful has been set up. However, the panel will not challenge the decisions of the clinical panel. Its purpose is to ensure that the same process has been followed for all applications for funding.
How many applications has the fund received? How much money has been allocated so far?
Interim Cancer Drugs Fund 1 October 2010 - 31 March 2011
- Individual Applications Received: 317
- Individual Applications Approved: 293
- Individual Applications Rejected: 21
- Applications Withdrawn: 3
- Actual cost to end of March 2011: £2.4m
Cancer Drugs Fund 1 April 2011 - 31 March 2012
As at 31st March 2012
- Individual Applications Received: 1,481
- Individual Applications Approved: 1,396
- Individual Applications Rejected: 66
- Applications Withdrawn: 19
- Forecast Cost to end of March 2012 for patients approved to date: £14,836,000
- Total forecast spend in 2011/12 based on cohort drugs approved: £14,836,000
Cancer Drugs Fund 1 April 2012 - 31 March 2013
As at 31st December 2012
- Individual Applications Recieved: 1222
- Individual Apllications Approved: 1155
- Individual Applications Rejected: 53
- Applications Withdrawn: 14
- Between April and November 2012 the spend was £14.155m