Innovative cancer programme extended

Patients report quicker and easier treatment.

A programme which has given cancer patients improved access to treatments is being extended.

Patients and health professionals reported significant improvements in access to cancer medicines thanks to the initiative, which was set up during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Cancer Medicines Advisory Group (NCMAG) initiative meant clinicians were able to make quicker decisions about patient medication and also that some treatments could be taken at home rather than having to visit hospital. The number of hospital visits were estimated to be halved, reducing the risk of infection to patients and the burden on cancer services.

An evaluation of the programme, which was supported by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, revealed high levels of positivity from patients while clinicians suggested hospital visits for patients were halved.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland is now developing ways to continue to provide advice on widening access to certain cancer medicines which are out with the remit of Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed plans to extend the programme.

Mr Yousaf said:

“The National Cancer Medicines Advisory Group is a new initiative that is being spearheaded by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. It brings real benefits to patients, while also reducing the number of hospital visits and therefore easing the pressure on our acute sites.  

“The Group was initially established at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure patients had access to cancer medicines, particularly where oral medicines were an option and reduced the need to visit hospitals.

“The programme is now continuing to review cancer medicines with both a clinical and health economic analysis to ensure we are using our utilising our NHS resources appropriately.”

Sally Clive, chair of NCMAG, said: 

“These findings provide evidence that the COVID-19 NCMAG advice has been relevant, useful and impactful and that this has applied to cancer services across Scotland.

“We are now taking forward a substantive NCMAG programme. This will provide a national mechanism for evidence based advice on clinical proposals for ‘off-label’ or ‘off-patent’ use of cancer medicines which can then be applied consistently across Scotland.”

Simon Watson, Medical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said:

"At this time of unprecedented challenge for the NHS, making the most of what we’ve already got is vitally important. This ground breaking work squarely focusses on making the most of existing cancer medicines with a clear focus on safe, clinical and cost-effective innovation. The programme has already demonstrated real world, measurable benefits allowing more patients to be treated with fewer complications and helping make the most of very stretched cancer services.

“We will continue to ensure that this important programme keeps clinical and service need at its heart and keeps delivering real world benefits for patient care in the future. I commend all involved for their vision, hard work and determination to establish this ground-breaking and important programme.”


COVID-19 NCMAG Evidence of Impact Report


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