'Postcode lottery' over cancer cash
Patients hoping to access a new £50 million cancer drugs fund could face a postcode lottery, experts have warned.
The fund, which will act as an interim cash supply until a full fund is established in April, is designed to give patients access to non NHS-approved drugs.
An editorial in The Lancet medical journal said the fund is not the victory some charities and patient groups believe it is, and many patients could miss out.
It described the fund as the product of "political opportunism", which was "intellectually indefensible" unless emergency funds for other conditions like dementia and multiple sclerosis were also set up.
The criticism comes as the Rarer Cancers Foundation (RCF) condemned the Government's refusal to confirm how much the eventual fund will be worth.
Before the election, Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the full fund would be £200 million.
They said the cash would come from savings on the NHS's national insurance bill to the Treasury.
But last month, Lord Howe said the £200 million was an "aspirational figure".
The Department of Health said no final decisions on how much the cancer drugs fund will be worth will be made until the spending review in the autumn.
A report form the RCF said 3,600 cancer patients could miss out on potentially life-extending drugs if the fund is not set at £200 million a year.