Doctor calls for equality in treatment

Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-111gc
Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-111gc
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A cancer specialist at Craigavon Area Hospital has urged the health minister to introduce a cancer drugs fund in Northern Ireland.

Dr Don Hull, a consultant haematologist, said people with cancer in Northern Ireland should be given the same treatment as patients in England.

There are 38 cancer drugs available to patients elsewhere in the UK that are not readily available to terminally-ill people in Northern Ireland.

Dr Hull said: “I think local patients deserve equal access to the funding that is being made available to 
cancer patients in 
England.

“I would urge the new minister to take counsel and discuss widely with me colleagues in my profession.”

In February, the then-Health Minister Jim Wells proposed the reintroduction of prescription charges to pay for a new specialist drugs fund.

A consultation by the Department of Health (DoH) on how to implement the fund including the possibility of introducing prescription charges to pay for it closed earlier this month.

Dr Hull added: “I know patients who could avail of these drugs and these drugs are known to be 
effective.”

He said, “They are expensive, but some cancer patients in England and Scotland are accessing them.

“There are many advancements in cancer drugs and there is also a better understanding than ever before of the illness, so we are actually refining our cancer treatments to target particular mutations and abnormalities of the cancer cells that isn’t present in normal cells.

“It is good that we can be more specific in our treatment.”