The Department of Health announces changes to the Individual Funding Request process in Northern Ireland and to the arrangements for enabling access for NI patients to promising new cancer medicines recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Wednesday 12 September 2018      Campaigns and policy Health information
Breast cancer drugs

The Department of Health has today announced changes to the Individual Funding Request (IFR) process in Northern Ireland (NI) and to the arrangements for enabling access for NI patients to promising new cancer medicines recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England.

The new IFR process – which will guarantee greater consistency and include a greater level of clinical input in decision-making about whether patients should be granted access to new treatments – follows an extensive consultation of key stakeholders, including Breast Cancer Now.

The announced changes in the arrangements for access to innovative new medicines also update the approach in NI to better reflect the changes made to the NICE process (including the introduction of the new Cancer Drugs Fund) in 2016. Drugs recommended by NICE for use through the Cancer Drugs Fund in England will now be made available in the same ways as those which have been recommended as suitable for routine commissioning – giving patients in NI the same access to cancer drugs as their counterparts in other UK regions.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:


“This is absolutely fantastic news that will help transform the lives of cancer patients in Northern Ireland for years to come. For far too long, patients in NI have not had fair access to the best and most promising new cancer drugs, and today’s reforms will finally bring us closer to long-awaited parity of care with patients elsewhere in the UK.

“Our recent ‘Good Enough?’ report highlighted a number of warning signs that breast cancer progress is stalling in NI – but it’s a real step towards equality that patients will now be able to access new and innovative medicines recommended for use on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England.

“We are also delighted to hear that the Individual Funding Request process will now place a greater emphasis on the potential clinical benefit for patients, and in particular will address the totally unfair ‘exceptionality’ criteria. Time and again we heard how patients had been unable to access the best new drugs such as Kadcyla, despite their availability in England, because they couldn’t demonstrate that they were ‘exceptional’ cases compared to other patients. This arbitrary rule unfortunately left many patients with little option but to crowdfund or use their mortgages or savings to try to access the life-extending drugs they needed, at an extremely difficult time.

“It is now crucial that these changes are implemented as soon as possible, to ensure patients can access the best treatments and that the gap in accessing innovative cancer drugs doesn't continue to widen between NI and the rest of the UK.”