We work to improve breast cancer services by campaigning for improvements which will lead to better outcomes for breast cancer patients, ultimately saving patients’ lives.
Cancer Drugs Fund
Breast Cancer Campaign welcomed the introduction of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which has made available £200 million per year since April 2011 to help cancer patients in England get greater access to the drugs recommended by their doctors.
Campaign responded to the original Government consultation by calling for assurances that the Fund would not result in greater regional inequalities in access to drugs, that breast cancer patients would be able to benefit from the Fund, and that there was a clear, fair and quick process of application for patients and doctors.
Once the Cancer Drugs Fund was introduced, we assessed the availability of breast cancer drugs through the Fund across England. Our research showed that while the Fund was increasing access to breast cancer drugs, there were differences in how the Fund was being managed in different regions of England, which was leading to differences in access to certain breast cancer drugs based on location. This was the key finding of a report into the functioning of the CDF by Campaign, which can be read here.
In order to overcome regional variations in access to cancer drugs, the Government has created one national Cancer Drugs Fund list to replace the regional lists previously used.
The CDF is due to end in 2014, when the Department of Health plans to introduce a different way of pricing new drugs– under a system called 'Value-Based Pricing'.
Campaign responded to the initial consultation on Value-Based Pricing, which can be found here, and will continue to work with the Government and other stakeholders ahead of its introduction.
Government Cancer Policy
The Government published a new Cancer Strategy in January 2011. This updated the previous Government’s strategy and set out how cancer services will develop over the coming years.
In our response to the consultation on the Strategy we used Campaign’s research to show that the NHS needs to promote the use of personalised treatments which are targeted to the individual and that the NHS continues to tackle inequalities. We also highlighted the need to:
- Recognise the importance of research for improving health outcomes
- Ensure continued prompt access to diagnosis and treatment
- Make available improved treatments with better access to drugs and radiotherapy
For more information you can read our response to the Cancer Reform Strategy Refresh Consultation.
Considerable changes are taking place to the organisation of health services. A range of new bodies have replaced the previous structure, including the establishment of NHS England (formerly known as the NHS Commissioning Board).
The Mandate to NHS England sets out the objectives for the NHS and highlights the areas of health and care where the Government expects to see improvements. A key role of NHS England will be to oversee the work of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), as well as directly commission certain ‘specialist’ services, such as radiotherapy.
These changes to the health service were brought in through the Health and Social Care Act 2012. As that Act passed through Parliament, we campaigned to ensure that research was not forgotten in the NHS. Thanks to our supporters who contacted their MP in relation to our campaign, we had contact from almost 100 MPs on this issue, the majority of whom contacted the Health Secretary to raise the importance of research.
We were therefore delighted when the Government subsequently announced it would change the Health Bill to include the two key calls of our campaign: to put a duty on the Health Secretary to promote research and a similar duty on the new CCGs. These changes will help to ensure that research in the NHS continues to be supported.
As the changes to the health service are implemented, we also believe it is vital that:
- Expertise in cancer, such as cancer networks, is not lost as the changes are made
- Inequalities in care and access to treatments continue to be tackled
- The involvement of patients, clinicians and researchers in commissioning is increased to ensure good quality services
Read our submissions to the relevant Government consultations:
Radiotherapy is a vital part of the cure for many breast cancer patients, yet radiotherapy services in the UK are not always as good as they could or should be.
Some patients may be missing out on radiotherapy as a result of low access rates and some areas have been slower to adopt the latest techniques in radiotherapy.
We are committed to ensuring improved access to radiotherapy - to ensure that radiotherapy is available to all patients where clinically appropriate and they choose to receive it, and that the latest radiotherapy techniques, such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), are available across the UK. Breast Cancer Campaign was a key funder of the first UK clinical trial of IMRT for breast cancer, which was led by researchers at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge
The introduction of the ‘Cancer Radiotherapy Innovation Fund’ by the Government is designed to speed up the use of IMRT across the NHS so that more cancer patients can benefit from this treatment.
NHS Breast Screening Programme
The aim of breast screening is to detect cancer at a very early stage, before other signs and symptoms are apparent. The sooner breast cancer is detected the better as treatments are more likely to be less intensive and to have a successful outcome.
In October 2012, Breast Cancer Campaign welcomed the publication of an independent review of the benefits and risks of breast screening, which concluded that the UK breast screening programme does save lives. You can read our policy blog on the review here.
However, the review also concluded that the screening programme results in some women being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer when their breast cancer might never have become life threatening. This is because doctors can’t tell which breast cancers will grow and spread and which will not.
The decision to attend breast screening is one that can only be made by the individual so it is essential that women receive clear, accurate, balanced and evidence-based information on both the potential benefits and risks of breast screening. Breast Cancer Campaign has been part of an expert group looking at the information provided to women when they are invited to attend a screening appointment and an updated leaflet to be sent to women with their screening invitation will hopefully be made available soon.
We are following developments in relation to the review of the screening programme and the screening literature closely and we really want to hear your views or experiences of breast cancer screening. Please get in touch by emailing our Policy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welsh Government’s Cancer Plan
The Welsh Government have unveiled their first cancer plan – Together for Health, Cancer Delivery Plan for the NHS up to 2016 – which outlines a number of measures to improve cancer services and outcomes by 2016.
Our response to the consultation on the Welsh Government’s Cancer Plan can be found here.