ON AIR: Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive

4PM - 7PM

National cancer agency established as Govt unveils 10-year plan

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Sunday, 1 September 2019, 12:02PM
Jacinda Ardern and David Clark made the announcement today. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Jacinda Ardern and David Clark made the announcement today. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The Government has today unveiled plans to establish a national cancer agency, which will be led directly by experts of the deadly disease, and a $60 million injection into Pharmac.

Until today, decisions about how to tackle New Zealand's cancer "crisis" came from bureaucrats within the Ministry of Health.

By December 1, the Government have promised decisions will come from a team of top cancer specialists who will report directly to Health Minister David Clark. That is the date the agency will officially be up and running.

World-leading public health physician and cancer epidemiologist Professor Diana Sarfati has been appointed as the Ministry of Health's interim national director of the agency.

"This is huge for New Zealand. It's the biggest change in cancer care in at least 15 years, if not ever. When the UK appointed a national cancer director there was an unprecedented improvement and survival rates increased dramatically," Cancer Society of New Zealand medical director Chris Jackson said.

It comes after a powerful public movement started by dying dad Blair Vining who launched a petition calling for a national cancer agency to hold District Health Boards to account and put an end to postcode lottery.

His petition gained more than 140,000 signatures from New Zealanders across the country.

The announcement is part of the Government's new Cancer Action Plan for 2019 to 2029.

The $60 million in funding for Pharmac includes $20 million for this year and $40 million for 2020/21. That's on top of $10 million announced in this year's Budget.

In last year's Budget, the Government increased Pharmac's funding by more than 13 per cent, from about $870 million to $985 million. That compares to increases of 2.4 per cent and 6.3 per cent in National's last two years in government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said from next year Pharmac will also speed up its decision making by considering applications for funding while Medsafe assesses the safety of new medicines.

"Rather than waiting until that work is complete as it does currently. Work on options for early access to new cancer medicines is also progressing well," Ardern said.

Health Minister Dr David Clark said the Government has listened to calls for strong central leadership and will deliver the promised Cancer Control Agency by December 1, 2019.

"Cancer care is woven into so much of the work that our public health service does, so while the agency will have its own chief executive, it makes sense for it to be housed within the Ministry of Health.

"I'm also pleased to announce that leading public health physician and cancer epidemiologist Professor Diana Sarfati has been appointed interim National Director of Cancer Control, starting immediately. She will lead work to improve the quality of treatment.

"An immediate priority will be establishing quality performance indicators for specific cancer types. This will mean we can measure progress towards consistent care across DHBs.

"We are also combining the four current regional cancer control networks into a National Network to help remove regional variations in care," Clark said.

Key announcements:

  • Cancer Control Agency to abolish postcode lottery.
  • World-leading public health physician and cancer epidemiologist Professor Diana Sarfati has been appointed as the Ministry of Health's interim National Director of the cancer control agency.
  • A $60 million funding boost to Pharmac, $20 million this year and $40 million in 2020/21.
  • A new system to fast-tracking Pharmac's drug funding decision process.

ON AIR: Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive

4PM - 7PM