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Let’s stop politicising cancer services in New Zealand

Categories: Latest News,Medical

Media Release: 31 July 2019

Simon Bridges’ recent announcement that the National Party will create a new Cancer Agency and allocate $200 million to cancer medicines upon being elected to Government further raises the stakes in what appears to be yet another round of the political lottery of cancer funding.

Politicisation of cancer services has a long history – an earlier Labour Government saw treatment in Australia as a way of dealing with inadequate services in New Zealand; John Key promised funding for the breast cancer drug Herceptin should he be elected; the previous Government attempted to address the long wait lists with Faster Cancer Treatment targets which were then described as “perverse incentives” and dumped by the current Minister of Health.

On the election campaign trail in 2017 the Labour Party promised a new National Cancer Agency and access to new cancer medicines, but has so far failed to deliver, despite the growing pressure from cancer patient groups and the patients themselves.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation calls on all politicians to cease the politicking around cancer services once and for all, and deal with the huge disparity between treatments and medicines in New Zealand when compared with comparable health systems in Australia, the UK and Canada.

Prostate Cancer Foundation CEO, Graeme Woodside, says:

“Our politicians have been railing on about a ‘postcode lottery’ and there is real evidence of this. But what is far worse is the ‘political lottery’ of who can promise the most to win votes and then walk away from their promises. The Foundation calls on politicians to put their relatively minor differences aside when it comes to cancer issues, and commit to working together to deliver a world class health system that provides good, timely access to diagnostic and treatment services for patients in New Zealand.”

The President of the Foundation, Mark von Dadelszen, points out that:

“Irrespective of the level of funding for cancer treatments drugs, inadequate attention is given to the ability to avoid in many cases the need for such drugs by providing better primary medical care and easier and more equitable access to treatments after diagnosis (which, in the long-run, should avoid as many people reaching the stage where their cancer is metastatic and would be cheaper). He points out that, the previous Government promulgated definitive Prostate Cancer Guidance in September 2015, but then it totally failed to ensure that every GP in the country was aware of it. The Guidance was distributed by the Ministry of Health to District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations, but, almost four years later, many GPs still remain unaware of the existence of the 2015 Guidance. The reality is that this Guidance has not been adequately promoted by the Ministry of Health over the past four years, and nothing has been done to hold the Ministry, DHBs & PHOs accountable for their failures to ensure that GPs received the Guidance, and little appears to have been done to ensure that GPs are trained about the Guidance.”

Both major political parties have made a commitment to establishing a new Cancer Agency, free from the political interference that has characterised cancer services for too long. The Prostate Cancer Foundation supports this.

Both major political parties have made a commitment to funding new cancer medicines in a more timely process and providing funding to do this. The Prostate Cancer Foundation supports this.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation’s message to our political leaders is simple: the parties need to get together and work this out without trying to score points and in the process disenfranchise those who are facing a life and death battle with this insidious disease.

If politicians can co-operate on issues like gun control and carbon emissions, surely they can do it for cancer patients.

ENDS

For more information and interviews please contact:

Mark von Dadelszen
President
Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand
M: 027 452 3530
E: president@prostate.org.nz

Graeme Woodside
CEO
Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand
M: 021 242 8072
E: ceo@prostate.org.nz