2025: NHS crippled by £1m cost of drugs

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Cases of cancer in Britain will treble in the next 20 years, inflicting crippling costs on the National Health Service, a report says.

Cases of cancer in Britain will treble in the next 20 years, inflicting crippling costs on the National Health Service, a report says.

More than 50 experts, including Mike Richards, the government's so-called "cancer tsar", predict the number of victims will rise to three million by 2025. The increase in numbers, and the rising price of drugs, could lead to a semi-privatised NHS in which only the wealthy can afford the best treatment, they say.

Their report, Cancer 2025, to be presented to John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, on Friday, will urge the Government to invest in the longer-term health needs of Britain rather than "quick fixes".

The document says new technology will allow the diagnosis of cancer in young adults, sometimes decades before they develop symptoms. That means increased costs due to longer-term treatment. The experts say the NHS will be overwhelmed by drug treatment costs of up to £1m per patient. At the same, the report warns, there is the danger of a cancer "underclass" developing, of overweight working-class people, many of them smokers, who lack the money for the best treatment. While only 5 per cent of the people in the upper social classes smoke, this figure rises to more than 50 per cent among the more deprived sections of society.

The report was sponsored by the think-tank Macmillan Cancer Relief Charity, and the contributors include Karol Sikora, former head of the World Health Organisation cancer programme, and Mary Archer, the wife of Jeffrey Archer, who is the chairman of Addenbrooke's Hospital Trust in Cambridge.

Peter Cardy, the chief executive of Macmillan, said " Unless successive governments take drastic action, we face ... a widening gulf between those who have resources, and an underclass who did not realise they should have made provisions for a lengthy old age when they could be chronically ill."

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