Patients may be charged for cancer treatment

Experts have warned that NHS budget issues could translate into patient cancer treatment charges.

In a paper recently published in the Journal of Cancer Policy, two cancer experts have suggested that NHS cancer care standards can only be maintained if “new approaches to paying for cancer” are found, one of which is “user charges”.

The report, written by NHS hospital cancer specialist Dr Ajay Aggarwal and Richard Sullivan, director of the Institute of Cancer Policy at King’s College London, documented the duo’s investigation into healthcare sustainability. The report concluded that cancer care standards were unsustainable without changes in funding, with experts suggesting that patient charges could “provide the key”.

“User charges could provide the key to long-term sustainability of high-quality cancer care in the UK,” said the report, as the authors suggested the projected rise in cancer cases and “stagnating NHS budgets” would combine to make cancer care standards unsustainable in the future.

The report suggested that some cancer treatments that receive approval in the US and the EU fail to secure NICE support as they are not deemed cost-effective in the wake of rising cancer drug costs. Findings also suggested the health service had a shortage of radiotherapy machines, with an estimated 147 additional machines needed by 2016 – at a cost of £205.8m.

The authors warned that if solutions weren’t found – user charges being the suggested option – then patients could see a “rationing of high-value treatments” or face a drop in standards of cancer care available on the NHS.