Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Mark Radcliffe 'Let’s stop pretending we can’t afford cancer drugs'

  • Comment
This hasn’t been much of a summer, has it? It’s been grey and wet; like November but without the fireworks. There has been no need for flip-flops, no swimming in the sea and the only time we have got the lilo out was when we covered it with a blanket, put a saucer of milk on it and watched next door’s surprised-looking cat bouncing back over the garden fence. When it’s raining you make your own entertainment.

We did take a wander to the beach where, despite gales and endless rain, we saw people sunbathing, having barbecues and, during one torrential downpour, a family sitting eating sandwiches.

‘How daft is that?’ I asked my daughter. ‘Well, we’re standing here watching them and at least they’ve got something to eat,’ she replied, adding: ‘Shall we go and do the lilo game again?’ ‘No,’ I said, unconvinced the cat would fall for it a fifth time.

These are the small things in life that try us. They irritate and annoy us. But we’re not really suffering. We’re not ill. Unlike some, we’re not remortgaging the house to pay for cancer drugs, are we?

On 24 August a group of cancer specialists wrote to The Sunday Times expressing concern over the inability of the health service to turn research success into treatment and over the impact of what amounts to a rationing of drugs by NICE that leads to many patients having to remortgage their homes to buy expensive but potentially life-saving drugs.

Of course we know the NHS does not have infinite resources and has to manage expenditure carefully. And everybody would concede that NICE has a near impossible task in having to judge cost against effectiveness for treatments and medicines. But are we satisfied that we are doing enough to guide its decision-making?

The cancer specialists point out that these drugs are freely available to patients in countries of comparable wealth. And that is the heart of the matter. We can afford these drugs but have organised ourselves in a way that makes it appear as though we can’t.

We don’t know where the money goes but we do know that everyone who works for the NHS has learnt to worry about how much money they may be spending. We also know that we have established processes and organisations that exist to monitor expenditure. And the people who administer these activities act in good faith.

But none of that should distract us from the simple truth that we, as a country, can afford to provide prescribed drug treatments for cancer patients. It is something other than money that is stopping us from looking after these people. We have the wealth but do we have the will?

Want to read more of Mark Radcliffe’s opinions? Click the more by the author link a the top of the page.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.