What you can do if you live in Northern Ireland and treatment isn't available
Read this information if you and your specialist believe you would benefit from a particular drug or treatment that has not been recommended for use in Northern Ireland.
Your cancer specialist should be aware of what drugs are available and funded in Northern Ireland.
If NICE has recommended that a drug should not be used within the NHS, it is unlikely to be funded in Northern Ireland.
Unlike England, Northern Ireland does not have a Cancer Drugs Fund for drugs that have not been approved by NICE.
It may be that you and your cancer specialist think you would benefit from a particular drug or treatment that has not been recommended for use in Northern Ireland. If there are very special clinical circumstances that are particular to your case, your cancer specialist can apply to your local health board asking for the drug to be made available as an exception to the normal rules.
Applying to the HSCB
If this is the case, your cancer specialist will complete the application form for you. It will then be submitted to the health and social care board along with any supporting information. This application is called an Individual Funding Request (IFR).
When making the application, your cancer specialist will need to demonstrate why they feel your request has exceptional clinical circumstances.
Your application will include:
any details of your medical history that may be relevant
the medical reasons why this funding is being requested
the expected benefits of the drug or treatment
any relevant supporting information
a summary of why approval for the drug or treatment should be granted
details of any important research or information from recognised clinical trials that support the use of the drug or treatment in cases like yours
why you are more likely to benefit from this treatment than would normally be expected in other patients with a similar illness.
What happens next?
The decision about whether you'll be able to have the treatment will be made by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) IFR Panel, which meets every week to consider IFRs received from all health and social care trusts. The panel is made up of clinically trained experts who will consider different factors to help it make its decision.
If your request is approved, your doctor can usually prescribe the drug or treatment shortly afterwards.
Making an appeal
If the request is denied, the reasons for this will be explained. Your GP or cancer specialist may submit new or additional clinical information as part of a new IFR request, or they may request a review of the decision.
A request for a review must be submitted within 20 working days of receiving the panel’s decision.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can't appeal again, but you can follow the HSCB complaints procedure and seek legal advice.