The UK government has announced a Vaccine Taskforce approach to tackling major health problems, including cancer. In a recent press release, a joint statement from the Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Business, and Energy & Industrial Strategy, said that over £113m in funding for new treatments would be available.
The funding will target the development of new cancer immune therapies, as well as ways to tackle increasing levels of obesity, mental health problems, and addiction. The British Medical Association has welcomed the funding, but also emphasised the need for extra investment in the NHS and social security system.
Sky News reports that the extra £3.3bn of funding announced for the NHS has been criticised by leaders in the healthcare professions. They argue that rising costs and the scale of the backlog caused by the pandemic mean that it effectively amounts to a pay cut, at a time when more substantial funding is required.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “The NHS faces real pressures, which is why we are investing over £100 million in the technologies and medicines of the future to address some of the biggest public health challenges facing our country.”
“This funding will improve outcomes for patients, ease existing pressures on the system and ensure that we are among the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs. Importantly it will also help save the NHS millions of pounds that could otherwise be spent on patient care – for example by tackling obesity which costs the health service over £6 billion annually.”
He added: “It is hugely welcome too that the highly successful Vaccine Taskforce, which procured millions of life-saving vaccines in record time during the pandemic, will now become a blueprint for how we harness the best talent and expertise from around the world and drive investment in research and development.”
The BBC reports that waiting times for cancer treatments have risen sharply over the past few years, and the number of new referrals is at a record level. It is thought that may be up to 30,000 missing cases, which have not been diagnosed due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.
The new funding will see an extra £22.5m allocated to cancer research and treatment. Currently, cancer is treated with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy. Certain types of brain tumour can be treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery in the UK.
NHS England Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard said: “We have already seen the incredible ways that new technology and innovation can transform NHS care and the lives of patients across the country – from glucose monitors for people living with diabetes, laser therapy for those with epilepsy to genetic life-saving testing for severely ill children and babies.”
She added: “Just today, we fast tracked a new drug deal for men with prostate cancer that can boost their survival – showing that the NHS is already at the forefront of delivering the latest treatments for patients.”
Dame Kate Bingham, who was responsible for heading up the vaccine taskforce, will help to select the panel of independent experts who will oversee the new mission to tackle serious health conditions.