New Single drug fund list to bring fairer system for cancer patients

NHS England is today (Thursday) taking action to end regional variation of access to the Cancer Drugs Fund. There will be one national list of approved fast-track drugs giving uniform access to treatment across the country.

From 1 April, NHS England took on responsibility for the operational management of the Cancer Drugs Fund, creating for the first time a single national system for deciding which drugs are available and for which conditions. The Cancer Drugs Fund provides an additional £200m each year to enable patients with cancer in England to access drugs that are not routinely funded by their local NHS. It was established in 2010 and will continue to run until the end of March 2014.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England said,

“This is a national levelling up of the number of approved treatments that are available under the Cancer Drugs Fund. This means more people will benefit. It is really important that we stretch every penny of the Cancer Drugs Fund so we get maximum benefit to the most people we possibly can.

“This is a step forward for the Cancer Drugs Fund.  In recent weeks cancer specialists from across the country have been working together to agree one national list of approved fast-track drugs for the Cancer Drugs Fund, which will then allow more uniform access to treatment and reduce variation of prescribing across the country.  Having one consistent method for consideration of overall clinical benefit and funding means that all applications will be assessed by the same criteria. Regional variation of the past is clearly not acceptable for patients. Clinicians can still apply for drugs to join the national list of approved fast-track cancer drugs. Clinicians can also continue to make individual funding requests for cancer drugs on behalf of their patients. Doctors will still be able to apply for any cancer drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund on behalf of their patients.”

Doctors will still be able to apply for any cancer drug through the Cancer Drug’s Fund on behalf of their patients. The single national list of approved fast-track drugs will contain 28 drugs which will treat approximately 70 different cancer conditions. A small number of drugs which were previously on local lists are now available more widely to patients through normal hospital treatment with no special application needing to be made.

NHS England stresses that any patient who is already receiving funding for a cancer drug, or has received confirmation that they will receive funding as part an agreed treatment plan, will continue to receive treatment, despite any changes made to the national list, as long as they and their clinicians consider it clinically appropriate. Any changes to the treatment plan for individual patients will be made as part of the regular clinical reviews of care and this will include any drugs that were prescribed on a time limited basis.

Until now, the Cancer Drugs Fund has comprised ten regional areas each with different regionally approved lists of fast-track drugs and the cancers they can be used to treat.There has also been a variety of processes for managing their availability to patients. This has led to differential access to drugs and different processes for reviewing patient’s requests. Clearly this is not acceptable. In anticipation of a single clear national approach to the Cancer Drugs Fund, the regional clinical leads for the ten areas worked with the National Cancer Action Team during the early part of 2013 to draft the single, national list of approved fast track drugs and the cancers they can be used to treat.

NHS England has established a national Clinical Reference Group for Chemotherapy which has approved the proposed list. This strong, clinically-led process ensures that access to the Cancer Drugs Fund is based on the best available trial data – ensuring swift access to innovative therapies but importantly ensuring that patient safety and quality of life are central to the process.

The Cancer Drugs Fund Standard Operating Procedures document and the national list of drugs and indications that will be routinely funded from the Cancer Drugs Fund are published on the dedicated webpage.

Additionally, NHS England will consider applications for cancer medicines made by clinicians to treat individuals with rarer types of cancers including those affecting children. More details on how to make Individual CDF Requests (ICDFRs) are set out on the Cancer Drugs Fund webpage.

View a letter written by Professor Peter Clark (document can be found on our archived website), Chair of the National Cancer Drugs Fund. This letter gives the current status of drugs and indications which were on local fast track lists but have not been included in the national list.