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Bringing the UK up to speed with Europe on new cancer technologies

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Dr Jon Bell

Consultant Interventional Radiologist, The Christie NHS Foundation

Introducing innovative cancer treatments in the UK has historically been frustrated by a convoluted process when it comes to new technology. A new Innovative Cancer Care Fund is set to arrest the UK’s slide behind other EU nations when it comes to making them available en masse.

“Within Europe, technologies proven to benefit cancer patients are generally introduced quicker than here in the UK, where there are more barriers to overcome before patients can access that treatment. This potentially contributes to our cancer outcomes being worse than other western countries.

“The Innovative Cancer Care Fund is being developed to put decision-making power in the hands of people who work in cancer care. The goal is to increase the availability of therapies to clinicians within the NHS.

It’s difficult telling a patient there’s nothing we can do, when often there is.

“This could make a huge difference to cancer patients in the UK. Currently, important therapies – such as selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) – are making big differences to cancer patients right now. However, that therapy and others are not widely available on the NHS – despite their proven positive impact in other countries.

“It takes a lot of time in this country to adopt innovative technologies within cancer treatment. The whole point is to identify a source of funding – that we know will benefit patients – giving us the option to make use of those technologies early in patients’ treatment plans.

How does it differentiate from the Cancer Drugs Fund?

“The cancer drug fund exists to give a two-year window to test innovative drug therapies that NICE and the NHS can’t fund due to a lack of patient data and other factors. That covers pharmaceuticals, but it doesn’t work with medical devices.

“The Innovative Cancer Care Fund, on the other hand, will purely review devices and technologies with the end goal of reducing the time it takes to make viable new treatments available on the NHS.

“The potential impact of the fund is huge. It could mean life-changing solutions for so many patients. It’s difficult telling a patient there’s nothing we can do when there often is. There may be tangible examples out there where people have been helped by an innovative technology yet, for them, it’s not available.

Our lack of efficiency means we’re failing patients

“We’re falling behind in this area to some degree. We’re failing patients with a process that’s not streamlined enough to support innovation. Removing some of that bureaucracy should enable those within cancer care to recommend these treatments for the right patient groups at the right stage of their treatment, which could in turn make a massive difference to our overall cancer outcomes.”

Supported by Boston Scientific

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