David Cameron announced on Saturday that an extra £400m of Government money will be allocated to extend a cancer drugs scheme that has been condemned by some doctors as a “triumph of political expediency over rationality”.
The Cancer Drug Fund, launched in 2011, was established to allow doctors to prescribe drugs even if they had been judged poor value for money by the health service’s medicines advisory body.
While the fund has been praised by cancer charities it has been strongly criticised by the medical journal The Lancet, which called the fund “the product of political opportunism and intellectual incoherence”.
The journal said it was unfair that the Government was prioritising expensive cancer drugs over similar medicines for equally life-threatening diseases. It also claimed that it undermined the role of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence which is mandated to impartially rule on which drugs should be prescribed on the NHS.
But at the Conservative Conference in Manchester, David Cameron will reveal the £400m boost that will extend the scheme until 2016. It has so far benefited around 34,000 patients.
He will also announce a new partnership between Cancer Research UK and Government-owned Genomics England to map the DNA code of 3,000 cancer patients and their tumours.
It is hoped that the project will allow researchers to develop far more targeted cancer treatments – as well as providing clearer evidence on which drugs will be effective for which patients.
The news will come at the start of the Conservative conference, which opens in Manchester today. It is one of a string of “consumer friendly” announcements designed to appeal to voters in the run-up to next election.
The party is expected to provide details of its plans for a new married couples’ tax allowance which will be introduced in next spring’s Budget.
There will also be a pledge that the long-term unemployed will be expected to work full time without being paid in order to continue claiming benefits. The move, which has significant public support, will be announced by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. It is designed to contrast the Conservatives as the “party of work” while painting Labour as the “party of benefits”.
There will also be new measures to support small businesses while Eric Pickles will announce plans to prevent councils using parking enforcement powers as a “cash cow”.
He will limit the powers of councils to use CCTV cars to pick on motorists parking illegally. The Communities Secretary said that the Government was also looking at increasing the “grace” period for motorists to get back to their vehicle before being fined from five to 15 minutes.
In an interview with the Standard the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said the conference slogan would be “for hard-working people” and would begin with a tribute to Margaret Thatcher. “Lady Thatcher is very much on our mind,” he said.
“She understood that no government in history had successfully taxed its way to prosperity.
“That’s a very different mentality — not taking money off people and then giving some of it back, but saying that they should keep as much as possible of what they earn.”