Clinicians considering the same and have concerns for the future of cancer care in Scotland
New research from a survey of oncologists and haematologists in Scotland* has revealed that over a third (39%) are aware of cancer patients who have relocated to England to receive treatment.1 Nearly all (96%) of those surveyed consider access to cancer therapies to be better in England than Scotland, 1 with half (50%) highlighting that restricted access has lowered Scotland’s standard of care compared to the rest of Europe.1
There are nearly forty cancer therapies not available to clinicians in Scotland that are available in other parts of the UK that they would consider using1 – spanning an array of cancer types (including breast, skin, bowel and lung cancer) and multiple indications. 1 This has not only resulted in cancer patients relocating to England to seek treatment but clinicians are also considering relocating; 14% of consultants surveyed state they have considered moving to a location where they can prescribe the cancer medicines they want to. 1
Clinicians list a total of 34 drugs rejected by the body responsible for advising on the use of new medicines by NHS Scotland, the Scottish Medicines Consortium that they would like to have access to in a perfect world. 1
There is also a more long-term impact on Scottish healthcare systems; 46% of oncologists and haematologists perceived that fewer clinicians are moving to Scotland to practice in cancer and 7% of consultants even consider terminating working in the field of oncology as a result of the restrictions in access to new cancer therapies. 1
The Access to New Medicines Review is underway examining every aspect of the current arrangements for the introduction of new medicines in the NHS in Scotland – 93% of clinicians surveyed are aware of the Review and 84% consider it to be very important. 1 An oral evidence session is anticipated on Tuesday 7th May.
In January 2013, the Scottish Government announced the launch of the £21m Rare Conditions Medicines Fund as a result of a review into how the IPTR system could be improved, however, it is not yet clear as to how this fund will work or be available for cancer medicines.
About the survey
The survey was commissioned by Roche Products Limited and conducted independently by leading global research company, Adelphi, in February 2013. The survey explored clinicians’ perspective on access to advanced cancer treatments in Scotland. The survey was conducted online between February and March 2013 and there were a total of 28 consultants interviewed (23 oncologists and five haematologists).
*A 2010 Clinical Oncology UK Workforce report stated that there are a total of 67 clinical oncologists in Scotland.2
Roche’s position on the Access To New Medicines Review
Scotland has a high incidence of cancer and a poor uptake of cancer medicines, with the lowest spend per head of population of the UK nations.
An assessment system should be considered by the SMC that transparently raises the threshold of acceptability for patients who need medicines that fall within specific criteria, such as end-of-life, rare diseases and unmet clinical need. There are sufficient issues to suggest that the committee should consider further more detailed evidence on the availability of cancer medicines.
1. Access to Cancer Drugs in Scotland survey, Adelphi research, February 2013
2. The Royal College of Oncologists Clinical Oncology UK Workforce Report 2010. Available here [Last accessed April 2013]