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Cancer Drugs: Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Accounts Commission – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire 12:00 am, 20th April 2017

What assessment the Commission has made of the effectiveness of the National Audit Office’s scrutiny of the long-term viability of funding for cancer drugs.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I can inform the House that the NAO published an investigation into the cancer drugs fund in September 2015, which set out the facts relating to the fund to inform consideration of what had been achieved. The NAO’s investigation followed up on a number of concerns raised during the earlier work on progress in improving cancer services. The investigation found that all parties agreed that the fund was not sustainable in its form at the time, and that NHS England was proposing a new arrangement for the fund. It also noted that NHS England did not have the data to evaluate the impact of the existing fund on patient outcomes.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Can he tell the House whether the Public Accounts Committee has actually looked at this issue?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I can indeed. This is a very serious matter that everybody wants to improve, so the Public Accounts Committee followed up on the National Audit Office investigation and recommended that the Department of Health and NHS England make better use of their buying power in order to pay a fair price for cancer drugs and improve data on patient outcomes. The NAO also followed up on several related issues in an April 2016 report. It recommended that the Department and NHS England should, in collaboration with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, consider affordability and ensure best prices for high-cost drugs.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

The findings show that although 40 cancer drugs were available through the cancer drugs fund in 2013-14 and 2014-15, some 71% of patients were covered by the 10 most common drugs. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that surely that indicates a need to move those 10 drugs on to the NHS list? Does he believe those findings have had any effect on Government policy on cancer drugs and the cancer drugs fund?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Which drugs are approved by NICE is of course not a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General, but I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. He makes his point well and I am sure the House has heard it.

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Conservative, Berwick-upon-Tweed

I would like to ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman what the Church of England is doing to help to protect churches throughout Northumberland from the theft of metal from their roofs.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Mr Speaker, do you wish me to reply to the question? The Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission cannot respond to it.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Thank you for that compliment, Mr Speaker.

Is Sir Edward Leigh aware of the real challenge, which has been brought to my attention by the excellent team at Huddersfield royal infirmary, that it is rare cancers that are the problem because they are very expensive to develop drugs for? There is a special case to be made for the treatment of and supply of drugs for these rare cancers. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of that minority group?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I am aware of that group, and the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We all hear in our constituency surgeries the heart-rending cases of people who are denied life-saving drugs. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee are fully aware of this issue and are going to continue to put pressure on the Government with regard to the cancer drugs fund to ensure full transparency so that we are always aware of the problems and can assure affordability for all our citizens.