We’ve all been disappointed by NHS England’s recent decision on second transplants. In this blog, our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Simon Butler, explains what’s next for our campaign to get this decision overturned.
Anyone with a connection to stem cell transplant will have been hugely concerned by the recent NHS England decision to deny funding for second stem cell transplants.
The decision is hard to accept, but hardest for those whose disease has returned and are in desperate need of a second chance.
Since the initial announcement in the summer, patients, clinicians and our supporters have been telling NHS England how important second transplants can be, and calling for the decision to be reversed.
The decision is not only unjust, it undermines our belief that the health service will be there for us in our hour of need.
It was a particularly strange experience for me to listen to the NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, at this week’s Britain Against Cancer conference. Just a few days after the second transplants decision, there he was announcing further investment in cancer services.
The extra funding is obviously welcome, but it was hard not to question how NHS England can give with one hand but take with the other.
We have a chance to pick ourselves up and make our case again
Now that we know that funding is not guaranteed, it is really important that we take time to understand why the second transplants decision was made. If we know what the problems are, we’ll stand a better chance of solving them.
A really significant problem that is tough to solve is the fact that NHS England is under huge financial pressure.
The financial issues facing the health service feature in the headlines every day – and the situation is particularly serious for ‘specialised services’, a category which includes complex treatments such as stem cell transplants.
NHS England was slapped on the wrist by the government in April for failing to control the rising cost of specialised services. Then in July, MPs on an influential committee added more pressure by calling for the organisation to be more robust when it comes to deciding what to spend money on.
Decision-makers across the health service are acutely aware that they have to justify every single penny of spending.
We need to continue to gather strong evidence in support of second transplants
The thin silver lining to NHS England’s announcement was that they are going to re-visit the second transplants decision in “the spring” – which means we have a chance to pick ourselves up and make our case again.
This week I’ve had to remind myself that the answer to situation like this is not just to make the argument louder, but to make it better. This means we need to continue to gather strong evidence in support of second transplants which will prove to decision-makers that they are worth every penny.
In the meantime this decision is very hard to live with. Patients needing a second transplant are currently faced with the option of having to work with their doctors to identify funding from other sources.
There is a real need for urgency, and more action is needed. In addition to working behind the scenes with transplant doctors to try and overcome the barriers, we’re determined to keep up our public campaign to highlight the importance of second transplants.
We were overwhelmed by the support we’ve received so far – in total over 24,000 people have taken action. It did make an impact in Westminster, and MPs are still talking about this issue.
Play a part in our campaign by telling your story
We want to carry this momentum forward into 2017, and we’re working on a new plan.
Join our campaign in the new year! We’ll be in touch to let you know how you can continue to support us.
If you have had a second transplant for relapsed disease and would like to play a part in our campaign by telling your story, we would really like to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.
For individuals who are affected by this announcement, the Anthony Nolan Patient Experience team is on hand to offer support. If you would like to speak to someone please get in touch with our Head of Patient Experience, Chiara De Biase, on 07824139258 or email email@example.com.