News that the NHS spent nearly £1 billion on cancer drugs rejected by a health watchdog without any clue whether they helped patients or not has been greeted with “dismay” by Ukip health spokesman Louise Bours.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that the NHS has spent almost £1bn “giving 74,000 cancer patients drugs rejected by the medicines regulator but does not know if they have extended their lives”, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
In the report released on Thursday, the NAO criticiseed the NHS and Department of Health’s failure to collect data on the outcomes experienced by patients helped by the Cancer Drugs Fund as a major weakness.
Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the public accounts committee, said the NHS and the Department of Health’s failure to ensure data collation “makes no sense” and made it impossible to judge if the scheme had succeeded in extending patients’ survival.
The budgets of other NHS services have also suffered as a result of spending sums as large as £416m a year on the fund, the public spending watchdog found.
Ms Bours, MEP for the North West, said: “No one would ever want to deny a cancer patient the very best treatment that is affordable and available, but surely the NHS should know if the drugs work or not?
“We’re not talking relatively small sums here either – it amounts to at least almost a billion pounds over two years and no doubt more beyond that.
“We constantly hear about the pressures on NHS finances yet a startling figure like this one suddenly appears out of the blue.
“Giving drugs to patients and then not gathering the data to see how effective they’ve been seems crazy to me, especially considering the constant need for the NHS to keep tight hold of the purse strings.”