Research conducted by JustGiving suggests that many cancer patients are turning to crowdfunding in order to pay for critical treatment.
The crowdfunding website found that 2,348 appeals were set up by cancer patients or relations in 2016; a seven-fold rise on the number for 2015.
This could be seen as indicative of the rising awareness of crowdfunding, but it also underlines funding difficulties within the healthcare system.
Over £4.5 million was raised by these appeals in 2016 compared with £530,000 in 2015.
Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for NHS England defended the way that cancer care operates within the NHS system.
“More people than ever before are surviving cancer thanks to improved NHS care… and together with NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) we have also launched a new-look cancer drugs fund, meaning patients will be able to access promising, new and innovative treatments much quicker.”
According to detailed figures released by the platform JustGiving, USA, Germany and Mexico topped the most popular destinations for patients travelling abroad for treatments last year.
More than 20% of those seeking treatment (404 people) raised £1,393,490 in donations to travel to the United States for care.
Germany followed in second place with 142 people crowdfunding £368,530 (a 461% increase from 2015), whilst 23 people raised £69,660 to travel to Mexico for treatment (a 224% increase from 2015).
Responding to the figures, Charles Wells, chief operations officer for JustGiving, acknowledged that many people are turning to crowdfunding for medical treatment.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen more and more people crowdfunding on JustGiving to raise money for cancer treatments that aren’t available on the NHS. It can be a practical way for friends, family and the community to come together and help, as well as providing a lifeline for people by giving them access to pioneering treatments when they’ve been given a cancer diagnosis.”
But consultant oncologist Dr Clive Peedell expressed concern about the number of people seemingly willing, and perhaps even requiring, two second navigate the NHS system in order to fund private treatment abroad.
“The NHS is clearly financially under pressure at present, but cancer therapy has received preferential funding compared with other diseases and conditions. The system for approving effective new cancer drugs is not perfect, but is much improved. The vast majority of proven effective treatments for cancer are funded by the NHS. This includes immunotherapy for a number of indications including lung cancer, which is my own field. However, funding pressures are likely to pressurise the current system even further and we could see it break down in future. It is therefore very worrying to see this trend of crowdfunding for cancer drugs.”
The NHS has recently announced an investment of £130 million in providing up-to-date radiotherapy equipment.
While £200 million will also be invested in improving local cancer services within the NHS system, to be distributed over a two-year period.