The National Audit Office (NAO) has documented the failure of the NHS to collect appropriate data on the cancer treatment outcome of a large raft of NHS patients related to the Cancer Drugs Fund.
In total, the National Health Service provided drugs to 74,000 cancer patients of whom the medicines regulator has no idea whether or not their lives were extended, according to the NAO.
This naturally indicates significant negligence on the behalf of the NHS, but also renders the statistical data related to cancer considerably less accurate.
According to Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, the failure to collect this wide variety of data simply makes no sense.
Furthermore, Hillier, who is a Labour MP, indicated that the oversight ensured that it is impossible to judge if the fund has indeed succeeded in extending the survival of patients, due to the gap in data.
In total, the NHS has funded in the region of £1 billion, providing cancer drugs for these 74,000 patients.
And in a report on the matter, the NAO was strongly critical of the NHS and Department of Health’s failure to collate adequate data.
The NAO describes the failure to collect information on the outcomes experienced by patients helped by the Cancer Drugs Fund as a major weakness of NHS operations.
In addition, an investigation by the public spending watchdog found that budgets for other NHS services have suffered as a result of spending on the fund.
The Cancer Drugs Fund attracts an annual budget of £416 million, since being set up by the coalition government back in 2010.
A plus point is that the fund has significantly improved access to 40 cancer drugs that are not usually readily available on the NHS.
This could enhance cancer survival rates regardless of the poor collection of data, with most recipients involved with Cancer Drug Fund requisition suffering from a terminal form of the disease.
Another notable success of the fund is that it underspent on its budget by 20 per cent overall.
However, this trend is unlikely to continue, as it is noted that spending has significantly increased in the last fiscal year.
Thus, the fund is anticipated to spend in the region of £70 million in 2015-16, according to NAO data.
“Taking 2013-14 and 2014-15 together, NHS England overspent the allocated budget for the fund by 35%. The overspend meant that less money was available for other services,” the NAO’s report on the fund states,
Commenting on the fund, the aforementioned Hillier indicated that a rethink was necessary owing to funding difficulties.
“At a time of increased pressures on NHS funding, the cancer drugs fund is not sustainable in its current form. There needs to be much better control of costs and proper assessment of whether these drugs are making a difference to the health of patients,” Hillier observed.
NHS England has already been forced to remove 28 drugs from the list of approved medicines that the fund is willing to pay for.
Cancer charities have warned that the withdrawals would mean the death of some patients awaiting medication, but NHS England has argued that inflated cost makes this decision inevitable.