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Cancer Action Plan Welcomed by BCAC

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) welcomes the announcement of the Government’s Cancer Action Plan on 1 September 2019.

‘We are pleased to see the Prime Minister acknowledge that New Zealanders with cancer deserve world-class care and outline a number of steps towards that,’ said Libby Burgess, BCAC’s Chair.

The increase in funding to PHARMAC is encouraging, but $60M over two years represents only a 2% per annum increase which falls well short of the OECD average for pharmaceutical spending. The additional funding will bring NZ’s per capita pharmaceutical spend to $212 while Australia’s is more than double that at $466 and the OECD average is $950.

BCAC is very pleased to see the Plan intends for PHARMAC to consider new medicines at the same time as Medsafe examines their safety and efficacy. We are hopeful this will mean a reduction in waiting times for funding of medicines.

We are pleased to see the establishment of a Cancer Control Agency aimed at providing system-level leadership and accountability. This should drive quality performance and help to overcome regional inequities. However we are concerned that the Agency will be embedded within the Ministry of Health, thus losing the benefits of independent oversight.

BCAC is glad that prevention, screening and early detection are part of the plan in addition to treatment and care. We’re pleased to see there will be action to extend the breast screening age from 70 to 74 years but this should be implemented immediately rather than progressively. Work to achieve equity of screening, particularly for Māori women will continue under the plan and we believe this should intensify and include consideration of screening at a younger age than the current 45 years. The plan flags consideration of establishing a service for women with BRCA mutations at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer and we hope this will proceed rapidly.

As with any plan, specific targets and timelines, and adequate resourcing in terms of capability and facilities, will be vital. Implementation is now key and this will require significant, sustained investment.

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