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Inconsistencies in cancer treatment

Survey reveals that PCTs and LHBs lack a common set of values when implementing NICE guidance for blood cancer treatments

Patients still face difficulties accessing treatments for blood and lymphatic cancer, even though Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Local Health Boards (LHBs) are funding drugs recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Some 60 per cent of PCTs and LHBs provide NICE-recommended treatments for blood and lymphatic cancer and there has been a 'marked improvement' in levels of care for patients with blood and lymphatic cancer, according to a Leukaemia Care report based on the 2009 Haematology Survey.

Two-thirds of the 152 PCTs and 33 LHB surveyed follow procedures to give patients access to treatments that are available but not yet recommended by NICE. Some 75 per cent of PCTs and LHBs surveyed said they have made policy changes to bring them in line with National Prescribing Centre guidelines – a move, the report suggests, shows that postcode inequalities in the UK are falling thanks to evidence-based guidelines for the provision of services.

Of the PCTs and LHBs surveyed, 42 per cent make funding available as soon as NICE guidance is issued; a further 36 per cent comply within the allowed 90 days, following publication of final guidance. According to the report, this highlights inconsistencies in the implementation of NICE guidance for approved treatments.

"One of our greatest concerns is that patients should have access to treatment," said Tony Gavin, director of cancer campaigning and advocacy, Leukaemia Care. "This report shows that some cost-effective treatments are not always being made available to patients and that confusion over the stages at which treatments can be made available is delaying vital treatment by as much as 90 days – days that some patients just don't have," he added.

Leukaemia Care is calling for consistent guidance and a transparent approach to treatment provision in England and Wales. The charity has developed a five-point action plan that it hopes will be adopted by government.

  • Swift development of centralised horizon scanning facilities in England and Wales to provide a central reference point for guidance on new treatments
  • Prompt introduction of the NHS Constitution in order to improve patient access to treatments
  • The new PCT 'Constitution Champions' should have a specific requirement to collect data on the implementation of NICE guidance, highlighting where there are barriers to access and providing recourse for patients whose rights are not upheld
  • More consistent centralised guidance to be put in place regarding the use of Individual Funding Requests
  • Procedures to be put in place to record and collect data on the uptake of treatment 'top-ups'.

  • 20th August 2009

    From: Healthcare

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