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There might be other things you can do if treatment isn't available.
Some people find it helpful to contact their local MP (Member of Parliament), MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), or AM (Assembly Member) for a letter to support their request.
There may be a national organisation for your type of cancer that is campaigning for a particular treatment to become routinely available. It may be able to give you further advice or put you in touch with other people who've been through this process, who can share their experiences with you and offer their support.
You may choose to pay for your treatment yourself. This usually includes the cost of treatment, drugs and all the care you receive.
Cancer treatments can cost thousands of pounds, so this would be a serious decision and one to discuss with your doctor, family and friends. Your doctor still needs to agree to prescribe the medicine or treatment.
Agreeing to pay for your treatment privately only applies to one medical condition. If you have private cancer treatment and then develop a totally different condition, you could have it treated either on the NHS or privately.
Private health insurance is also an option, but only if you have a pre-existing policy. Some policies don't include certain treatments for cancer, or may not fund more than one course of this type of treatment. Your insurer will be able to give you more detailed information based on your individual situation.
Co-payment is when a patient having NHS treatment pays privately to have a drug that isn't available to them on the NHS. People can do this by paying for it themselves or through an existing insurance policy. Some insurance companies have policies to fund drugs that are given alongside another treatment but aren't available on the NHS.
Current guidance in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland says that patients can pay to have drugs not available on the NHS while continuing with their NHS treatment. The NHS care and the privately funded care must be given separately. Wales is expected to adopt similar guidance.
As well as paying for the cost of the drugs given outside the NHS, you'll also have to pay for the costs related to giving these drugs. This includes staff time and any tests and scans associated with the extra care.
It is recommended that people using co-payment are given the drug or treatment in a different area to where NHS treatment is given. This could be at another hospital or in a private area in a ward or clinic at their usual hospital.
Co-payment should only be used when other means of getting a drug on the NHS have been looked at.
There may be variations on how co-payment is dealt with across the UK. Talk to your cancer specialist to find out how co-payment is dealt with in your local health body.
Provides help if you have a problem or complaint with NHS services in Wales.
Health Rights Information Scotland
Produces information for patients about their rights and how to use NHS services in Scotland.
Considers complaints about government departments and agencies in the UK and the NHS in England.
Provides information, advice and local support to help patients, families and their carers in England.
Advises patients on their rights and access to health services.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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