The recent announcement that second stem cell transplants would not be routinely funded by NHS England has understandably caused huge concern for anyone affected by blood cancers and blood disorders.
In July, NHS England confirmed that second transplants for patients who relapse had been categorised as a low priority, and that funding would not be guaranteed for patients in need.
Unsurprisingly, the response from patients, doctors and Anthony Nolan supporters has been loud and clear: this decision is simply wrong.
How we’ve taken action
The Anthony Nolan campaigns team was overwhelmed by the level of support for our open letter to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, following the NHS England announcement.
That letter was signed by over 18,000 people, and was delivered to the Department of Health by transplant patients Simon Bostic, Emma Paine and Emily Wellfare.
Delivering a letter like this is an important way of showing the level of concern across the country, and puts pressure on the government to act.
Our supporters have added further pressure by sending over 5,000 emails to MPs about this issue. Like the letter to Jeremy Hunt, backing from MPs sends a strong message that the government must respond to the concerns of patients.
The impact so far
So has all of this campaigning worked? The honest answer is that it’s too early to say.
The response we received to our letter to Jeremy Hunt didn’t give much away – but that isn’t uncommon for a letter from the government.
The key section of the letter refers to the ‘re-running’ of the decision making process following a High Court judgement:
“Following the judgment in the PrEP case, on 2 August NHS England announced that it would be re-running the prioritisation process, subject to the outcome of the appeal.”
You may have read about the PrEP case in the news – but essentially the High Court decided that NHS England had been wrong to ignore the HIV treatment when it was calculating its budget.
The letter goes on to say:
“The re-run of the prioritisation process is expected to take place at the end of October, with the final decisions being made in November.”
On the face of it, the fact that they are re-opening the discussion about funding does sounds like a promising development.
However – and it is a big ‘however’ – there is still no indication that NHS England will change their mind on second transplants.
Their message remains the same; they have a limited budget and can’t guarantee funding for every treatment.
How we can still make a difference
That’s why we still believe that political support is the most effective way to ensure that NHS England fully recognises the importance of funding second transplants.
The Anthony Nolan campaigns team is continuing to talk to supportive MPs and engage with policymakers to make sure that this issue remains high on the agenda.
It doesn’t always feel like it, but at times like this, emailing your MP can make a difference.
We know that sometimes the response our supporters get back from their MP feels pretty disappointing. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you think how many emails MPs get every day on a wide range of important issues.
But we also know from experience that the more emails MPs receive, the more likely they are to add their voice to the campaign – and the harder it is for the government and NHS England to ignore.
So if you haven’t yet asked your MP to get involved, this is a simple but effective step to take.
The more emails MPs receive, the more likely they are to add their voice to the campaign – and the harder it is for the government and NHS England to ignore.