Patients will no longer need to go through their primary care trust's (PCT's) funding processes when applying to the cancer drugs fund, under new changes to the scheme.
The latest guidance from the Department of Health states that in the majority of cases, patients should be able to get access to cancer drugs within days of their GPs applying to the fund. Up until now, some PCTs had required GPs to make individual funding requests before turning to the fund.
The guidance also says that the bodies responsible for the fund - strategic health authorities - must ensure that they are transparent in publishing what they have spent.
In addition, the Department has also announced that it will undertake an audit, to 'provide evidence from drugs funded through the fund for the benefit of wider NHS practice'.
Commenting on the guidance, the chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, Andrew Wilson, said: 'We welcome the measures aimed at speeding up applications for drugs by bypassing PCT funding processes prior to applying to the fund. This will help patients to get the fastest possible access to the drugs recommended by their doctors.'
|What is the cancer drugs fund?|
The fund was introduced in 2010 to provide £200m a year in additional funding until value-based pricing is introduced in 2014. The fund is intended to cover treatments that are not routinely available on the NHS
In the same week, the Daily Mail
reported that more than £60m of the £200m allocated for 2011/12 had not been spent. A Department spokesperson told Wellards: 'We always said that the amount made available for the cancer drugs fund was an estimate based on what we expected demand to be, and we wanted to make sure that there was more than sufficient funding, which clearly there has been.
'We have made allocations available for 2012/13 drawing on experience from the last 18 months and we expect the cancer drugs fund to continue to meet the needs of those who require its funding.'
The Department claims that demand has reduced as drugs that were once funded through the scheme have become approved and funded through the mainstream NHS. It points to patients who were able to access prostate cancer drug abiraterone prior to its approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.