Tories say 2,500 cancer patients miss out on medicines
Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said 2,500 cancer patients in Scotland had missed out on medicines available via the cancer drugs fund in England, on 20 February 2012.
Mr Carlaw said the number was calculated from the 25,000 patients in England he said had received cancer drugs since the fund had been set up.
He said: "We have not made progress and in consequence some 25,000 people in England have had access to treatments for cancer which have not been available in Scotland and by calculation some 2,500 people in Scotland have been denied access to life saving treatments."
Mr Carlaw said "cancer is the one condition" in which "we are not serving people effectively", and a "fund of sorts" was needed to plug the gap in this area.
The Conservative MSP called for the Scottish government to bring forward funding to afford access to new medicines in Scotland for cancer patients and others.
Health Secretary Alex Neil explained that Scotland had not followed England down the cancer drug fund route as the money would have to be found from somewhere else in the health budget.
Mr Neil pointed out key cancer charities had backed the decision not to create a fund.
The health secretary highlighted the ongoing review into access to new medicines and accepted there were concerns about individual patient treatment requests (IPTRs) which he hoped the review and health committee inquiry would address.
He said the review should be completed and in his hands by the end of February.
Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Jackie Baillie welcomed the new medicines review but said continuing the current system of IPTRs was "no longer acceptable".
Ms Baillie said the government must ensure an end to the "appalling postcode lottery" across Scotland in relation to access to medicines.
MSPs who have survived cancer were amongst those who spoke on the issue of a cancer drugs fund during the debate.
Labour's Jayne Baxter stressed the need for a "robust, fair and transparent system" for determining access to medicines.
She spoke about her experience of cancer, saying: "I was lucky.
"Early detection, prompt and skilful treatment and aftercare from the Maggies Centre gave me the ability to get on with my life, to be here today.
"I count myself very lucky but I now take nothing for granted."
She added: "Having had that experience, I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to be told you have cancer but you won't get help because of anomalies in the system."
Ms Baxter, a Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, insisted that cancer sufferers should "not be reduced to lobbying and campaigning" for drug treatments.
Aileen McLeod, an SNP MSP and a member of Holyrood's Health Committee, said she was speaking in the debate "both as a policymaker and a cancer victim and a cancer survivor".
The South Scotland MSP stressed the importance of detecting cancer early, telling MSPs: "I'm very acutely aware of how cancer sufferers and their families feel.
"But what I want to be doing is preventing people from getting to that stage where they need cancer drugs, and that's why the Scottish government's £30m Detect Cancer early programme is so important."