What does our stance on medicine and money say about us? When did the government let money be the barrier to treatment?
By Rohan Devani
Rohan Devani comments on his view of the possible decline of our National Health Service.
|Left out: hundreds of cancer patients will no longer receive the
most effective medication they deserve.
(Photo: The Alliance for Natural Health)
It is a sad day, when life-saving and life-prolonging drug treatments are refused to patients because they are too expensive. On January 13, NHS chiefs decided that certain cancer drugs were too expensive for their budget, and responded to their deficit by axing these drugs, so that patients could no longer receive them. The NHS has set aside around £280 million to fund cancer drugs for their patients, but went £100 million over budget. Their quick, knee-jerk reaction was to remove certain drugs from the list of fundable medicines, a shocking and brutal reflection on the culture of austerity rudely taking place in the health service.
The NHS is often blamed for ‘sucking up’ public funds, because it occasionally finds itself on the wrong side of the budget it sets itself. In fairness to the vocal critics, the health service has reputation for spending more than allocated, with meagre boundaries set in place. I am a great advocate of the concept of the NHS, but notably, not the system itself.
The healthcare of our country is managed, with few horror stories of disastrous treatments in hospitals, and a great respect for the doctors in our society.
The snag? The budgeting system, hindering the best efforts of the service.
A clichéd idea to say the least, but the NHS doesn’t forcefully demand the necessary funding. By firmly asserting that the NHS should be, treated favourably when it comes to cutting budgets, I am sure the crisis would be averted.
The 13th January was the date that the patients who required medication to treat cancers were told that they could not receive them. The ministers promised that the drugs would be axed, to make way for better drugs, which would benefit patients further. However, this is the most flimsy of excuses. One imagines a The Thick of it-like scenario, where a disorientated press officer (Chris Addison) often finds himself in the awkward position of having to appease a baying media around the corner. This promise is one that will not be in the best interests of the people.
Simply put, the government are holding off care, to pave the way for a new wave of cheaper and stronger cancer drugs. They are prepared to cause the shortening of lifespans for cancer patients, to save money.
I have no doubt the government will eventually deliver better drugs; they should be forced to. My concern, is for the patients who develop a form of cancer where there is no funding. These patients suffer, despite some benefits such as the introduction of treatment for a few groups announced.
There is another side to this decision. Some parts of the NHS must be exempt from the cuts, and we should applaud a decision to cut funding which benefits the minority, rather than the majority. The less effective drugs which act as a substitute, and ultimate replacement for the discontinued medicine, provide around 60% of the operative power, of its terminated successor. The criticism most governmental figures hold is the lack of clarity, on when the new wave of medication will come in.
|Controversy: NHS doctors will be unable to
prescribe potentially life-saving drugs
to suffering patients. (Photo: Daily Express)
There are of course, economic considerations– the NHS has to save money, as is expected. The MPs which have supported the move mention the replacements can be swept in with efficiency. The drugs that have been axed only treat rare cancers, with some, of the drugs still exist to help.
The trend is set. But where does this leave us in terms of our stance for the future? A great concern, is whether patients who depend on the service in other ways could also become ‘victims of austerity’.
The solution? More funding to the NHS.
The NHS requires more money to buy more medicines, instead of cutting back. Many drug companies and independent concern groups have strongly suggested the healthcare service completely re-vamp the way they buy their medicine.
The overarching fear is that patients suffer; as many labelled the dropping of treatments reflective of the poor financing of the NHS. None of us can be certain as to the outcome of the decision; until then, we must wait and see if the Government’s plan brings about an efficient change, or a myriad of disasters.