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The Cancer Drugs Fund is a special fund worth £200 million a year. It was created by the government to help improve access to cancer drugs for people living in England. The fund is for cancer drugs that aren’t routinely available on the NHS.
This fund is only available for people in England. The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland decide separately how they spend their money on health. So far, they haven’t decided to set up similar funds.
The fund is for cancer drugs that aren’t routinely available on the NHS. This may include drugs that haven’t been approved for funding, are yet to be approved for funding or that aren’t approved for a specific type of cancer.
The fund doesn’t replace existing funding processes and is only available after all other sources of NHS funding have been investigated. Your cancer specialist, working with local NHS managers, will look into all reasonable sources of NHS funding before applying to the fund on your behalf.
The fund is coordinated on a regional basis by Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs). SHAs manage the NHS on behalf of the government in England. Each SHA has a panel of cancer experts to make funding decisions on its behalf.
Below are links to all 10 SHAs. Where possible, we have linked to information about the cancer drug fund.
If information isn't available on the cancer drugs fund, we've included links to information about the interim fund.
To begin with, it’s important to talk to your cancer specialist. You can both decide which treatment is best for you by openly discussing all possibilities. This will depend on a number of things, like the type of cancer you have, its stage, any other treatments you’ve had and what the side effects are likely to be.
If you and your cancer specialist agree that a particular drug is right for you,
and you’re unable to get it after all other NHS funding options have been explored, you may be eligible. You must also live in England to apply for the fund. We have more information about making treatment decisions|, which you may find helpful.
It’s important to talk to your cancer specialist. You can both decide which treatment is best for you by discussing all possibilities.
Your cancer specialist will need to make the application on your behalf. They will need to show that the drug is not currently available to you on the NHS. Your cancer specialist has to apply to the SHA that covers the area where you live, even if that's not where you are having, or have received, treatment.
The panels make funding decisions based on:
Panels will also take into account rarer cancers and circumstances where there is limited evidence about certain drugs.
Panels should make decisions in a timely manner, as they have been asked to pay attention to current cancer standard targets. These targets demand that patients are seen within 31 days of a decision being made about their treatment. This applies whether treatment aims to cure, slow down or manage the symptoms of their cancer.
Many panels have attempted to speed up decision-making by creating priority lists. Applications for drugs on these lists are fast-tracked through the funding process. SHAs are required to review these lists to ensure that the most appropriate drugs are being made available. The drugs that an SHA will fund may change as new drugs become available or if a drug is made routinely available on the NHS.
The fund is only available after all other sources of NHS funding have been investigated.
Panels should give a clear reason if funding for a drug is denied. Cases can be reviewed if more evidence becomes available about a drug or if information was missing from the original application.
Your SHA will have a process in place for dealing with appeals, and any appeal should be carried out in a timely manner. Each SHA has a different procedure - some have leaflets or information on their websites explaining how you should appeal. Your cancer specialist should also explain the local process to you.
The Rarer Cancers Foundation| has fact sheets on its website that explain how the fund works in different SHAs. They also explain what the different appeal processes are in each area.
If you have a general complaint about your treatment, you might find it useful to read our information about making a complaint|.
This section has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources, including:
For further references, please see the general bibliography|.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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.
Thank you to all of our campaigners who helped secure the Cancer Drugs Fund.
For information on how you can be a part of campaigns to improve the lives of people affected by cancer see our campaigns pages|.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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