As a few of you will know, in October 2010, I had Cyberknife Stereotactic Radiotherapy for skull mets. At that time my treatment was paid for by a Charity as my then PCT wouldn't pay for it (post code lottery and all that). After my treatment i resolved to campaign to make funding for this potentially life saving treatment more widely available for all cancer patients who needed it. As a result I helped set up a charity called:
www.ukcknetwork.co.uk and set up an online petition which has been signed by over 3000 people.
However i regret to say that funding has got markedly worse this year and I would like to explain why to help raise awareness, and hopefully inpire people to ask more questions about this from the powers that be.
Basically, up until the 1st April 2013, if a Consultant felt a patiient required treatment not routinely funded by the NHS such stereotactic radiotherapy ( Cyberknife or Gamma-knife), they would apply to the patients Primary Care Trust, and that PCT would then forward the application to a local Specialised Commissioning Group.
But this led to an unfair postcode lottery where funding decisions woud vary from one place to the other.
To counter the potcode lottery and ensure more consistent funding arrangements the Government set up a national commissioning group called NHS England, and now, since the 1st April 2013, all applications for individual funding are sent to them.
The problem is that since NHS England took over responsibility for funding from local Specialised only two types of cancer are now eligible for SBRT and SRT funding. These are Cerebral Metastases and Primary Inoperable Lung Cancer. Patients with any other type of cancer are ineligible.
The reason NHS England have adopted this funding policy is that they have followed the recommendations of a report published by the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group in 2010/2011. This report looked into the eficacy of SBRT and SRT, and concluded that funding of this treatment should be limited to Cerebral Cancer, and Primary Inoperable Lung Cancer. All other types of cancer, should be funded within a trial setting .
Thus the expectation was that the promise of funding would lead to more Trials and as more evidence became available to support funding for other cancers, the list of cancers eiligible for NHS funding would increase.
However The Government then handed over responsibility for overseeing evidence and recommending which cancers should join the list eligible for NHS funding to a group called the United Kingdom Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy Consortium.
Trouble is, they are not answerable to the Department of Health, and almost three years later, this group have yet to make any recommendations.
Why? you may ask. Because there is not a single Trial going on in the UK to evaluate stereotactic RT for other cancers.
An MP called Tessa Munt has repeatedly taken up cases of cancer patients who have been refused funding for SRT, and she recently raised a Parliamentary question to the Health Minister about this (which was reported in Hansard). I wa so disappointed with the Ministers reply that I added an annotation which will appear in the margins of Hansard. Hopefully someone will read it - but I won't hold my breath.
I have copied my Annotation at the bottom of this thread, for people to read it if they're interested
In the meantime I hope people realise that this policy is costing lives - and could effect anyone who irequires Cyberknife or Gamma-knife.
If you don't believe me google the story of Nadejah Williams (which has been reported in several newspapers recently). Nadejah is a 23 year old young lady who has inoperable bowel cancer. Her Doctors have said her only chance is stereotactic radiotherapy, but despite two funding applications and an appeal, NHS England have refused funding and she has now been told she has just a few months to live.
Anyway this is my Hansard annotation for anyone interested:
Just not good enough Anna.
Since NHS England took over from local Specialised Commissioning Groups on the 1st April 2013, SBRT and SRT is now only funded for two types of cancer - Cerebral Metastases, and Primary Inoperable Lung Cancer.
This means that cancer patients with any other type of cancer cannot get NHS funding for SBRT or SRT. This is shocking because it is costing lives, and because SBRT and SRT are readily available for most types of cancer in nearly every other developed nation.
NHS England have based their funding policy concerning SBRT and SRT on a report published by the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group in 2010/2011. The report concluded that SRT and SBRT should be funded for Cerebral Metastastases and Primary inoperable Lung Cancer, and within a trial setting for all other types of cancer.
So there was always the expectation that as more evidence came along, other types of cancer would be funded.
But when will this be? We are told that recommendations to expand the types of cancer suitable for NHS funding has been delegated to The United Kingdom Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy Consortium. They apparently will look at any new evidence and make their recommendations. But when will this be and more to the point - given that there are no trials going on in the UK to establish new evidence, what will they base this on?.
Delegation is a reality of Government but some things are too important to delegate. Ultimately the Government are responsible for the NHS, and if the NHS cannot offer cancer patients life saving treatment because nobody is taking responsibility for what treatments are funded, the Government must step in to shake things up.