NHS U turn over cancer drug trial funding

Hospital chiefs and cancer research leaders had been warned that funding for patients taking part in drug trials might be cut- but these were now “incorrect” according to NHS England.

NHS U turn over cancer drug trial fundingExcess treatment costs (ETCs) cover the care of patients involved in drug trials which are not already covered by the pharmaceutical or academic research body involved.

Traditionally the NHS has covered these costs for patients who wish to take part in the trials.

The letter from the head of specialised commissioning at NHS England London Region, dated 21 November, was written to hospital trust medical directors and leaders in the field of cancer research.

NHS England statement

It said: “I am sure you will appreciate that in the current financial climate, the primary call for resources is to support clinical service provision for established service priorities.

“To this end, the NHS England London Region Area Team is unable to identify any uncommitted resources which could be used to support ETCs for clinical trials. This is the national position which is being adopted, in respect of all current requests for ETCs.

Cancer Research UK, which is currently supporting drug trials involving about 35,000 patients, said it had concerns.

Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “The partnership between the NHS and organisations which fund research, such as Cancer Research UK, has been a great success story.”

“We lead the world in being able to offer patients participation in clinical trials, but all this will be undone if the NHS cannot keep its side of the bargain.”

A spokesman for NHS England said: “We strongly support medical research and we will fund excess treatment costs in line with the national rules, so these local letters were incorrect and are being withdrawn.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Research in the NHS is vital and has this government’s strong support. We have asked NHS England to set out how they will deliver their objective to promote research and ensure the payment of excess treatment costs.”

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