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Cancer Drugs Fund is not a fair allocation of NHS resources

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 01 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d621
  1. Sarah Thornton, lawyer1
  1. 1York, UK
  1. hinyork{at}

The Cancer Drugs Fund white paper makes proposals that go to the core of what is fair allocation of national health resources.1

The fund is a political sop to the high profile negative press cancer drugs not approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have received. But the press is not a good arbiter of how best to make a fair NHS.

The cancer fund is not “extra” funding but money that should be shared across the NHS in the way the NHS was designed to operate—to provide an equal distribution of funding to those in equal need. Cancer patients are no more important than any other group of patients. Welcoming the cancer fund will allow the government to open the door to piecemeal funding in other areas of the NHS.

The cancer fund will pay for drugs that, on the basis of their need-benefit analysis, NICE has decided it is not collectively fair to fund. The very idea of the cancer fund is therefore inequitable and contrary to all that the NHS stands for.

Providing a finite fund that will be administered by consultants in a partisan way will create an inconsistent and unfair model of resource allocation. The cancer fund represents a diversion from the fair allocation of NHS resources for maximum societal benefit and should not be supported.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d621


  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • ST is a lay member of the Royal College of Radiology’s clinical oncology liaison group (although these views are her own and do not represent those of the RCR).


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