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Drug appeal procedures 'chaotic'

11th August 2008

A patient group has said that appeals by people with cancer for drugs without NHS funding are not handled well, under a "chaotic" system.

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The Rarer Cancers Forum's report - which includes data gathered under the Freedom of Information Act - said the results of appeals were often dependent on which area of the country the patient was resident in.

The Forum said that one in four appeals submitted during a 20-month timeframe were declined.

There were also huge variations from trust to trust - one did not grant any appeals, while 96% were allowed at a trust close by.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) decision not to allow the use of four treatments for advanced kidney cancer has highlighted the efforts of patients' appeals.

Patients can submit an "exceptional request" to their primary care trust if the drugs they want are not funded by the NHS.

The Forum found that 25% of patients' appeals were not granted. 5,000 appeals were submitted during a 20-month timeframe.

Currently, no national guidelines are in place to advise primary care trusts on how to manage appeals.

The Forum's chief executive Penny Wilson-Webb said: "This audit shows that the exceptional cases process is in chaos and patients are suffering."

"In the last 20 months, 5,000 cancer patients have been forced to plead for their lives. There has to be a better way."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The draft NHS Constitution will address this [postcode lottery] by making it explicit that patients have the right to NICE-approved drugs if clinically appropriate."

 

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