Thousands more cancer patients in England will get access to life-extending drugs after the Government set aside extra cash to pay for treatments.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said that the Cancer Drugs Fund, which pays for pioneering treatments not routinely available on the NHS, would be given a £160m boost.
The money will take the value of the fund to £280m per year for the next two years.
However, cancer charities expressed disappointment that Mr Hunt made no guarantees that the fund, which is set to expire in March 2016, would continue into the future.
The Cancer Drugs Fund has helped more than 55,000 cancer patients since it was set up four years ago. Doctors can apply for money from the fund, on a case-by-case basis, to pay for drugs not available on the NHS – usually because they are restrictively expensive. The fund is only available in England.
Mr Hunt said that the Government needs to “focus our efforts on increasing access to these innovative treatments”.
The announcement follows controversy over decisions by the drugs watchdog Nice not to recommend two cancer drugs which have been shown to extend the life of terminally ill patients for routine use on the NHS, citing restrictively high costs placed on them by their manufacturers.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said that the charity was “concerned that [the cash injection] is not a long-term solution to the problem of access to drugs that currently exists in the UK”.