£50m to improve cancer drug access
A new £50 million fund has been launched by the Government to give patients access to cancer drugs.
The fund will pay for medicines which can extend life by a few months or improve quality of life but which may have been rejected by the health watchdog as too expensive.
It will also cover drugs currently used off-label by clinicians to treat conditions not covered by the medicine's licence, or those which have yet to be appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Doctors working in regional groups will decide how the funding is spent in their area based on advice from cancer specialists.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the fund makes good on a promise the Tories made during the election race to provide money from central budget savings to pay for cancer drugs.
"I promised that I would help patients in England get cancer drugs that are readily available in the rest of Europe," he said.
"Patients should have access to innovative cancer drugs that can extend or improve their quality of life and which their doctors have recommended, which is why I'm determined to take action now."
Before the election, the Tories said the cancer fund would total £200 million, coming from the cash the NHS would save on its national insurance bill to the Treasury, but critics, including experts from the University of Leeds, have said the bill will be far higher and could rise to £600 million.
However, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham questioned how the plans would be funded, claiming that money saved from stopping the National Insurance rise would be cancelled out by a rise in VAT to 17.5% in January.
Mr Burnham also said the Government will be forced to explain why funding for cancer treatments is being prioritised over drugs for other conditions such as Alzheimer's or motor neurone disease.


Northern Rock finance boss banned for hiding arrears

Northern Rock signThe misreporting of mortgage arrears led to a false picture of Northern Rock's strength

Northern Rock's former finance director, David Jones, has been fined and banned by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for his part in the misreporting of mortgage arrears.

The FSA fined Mr Jones £320,000 and banned him from performing any function in relation to any regulated activity.

Mr Jones said the penalties were "unfair and disproportionate".

He is now the third former executive from Northern Rock to be banned and fined by the regulator.

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In April, two others - the former deputy chief executive David Baker and the former credit director Richard Barclay - were fined a total of £650,000 by the FSA for failing to ensure accurate financial information.


The FSA found that Mr Jones' misconduct started in mid-January 2007 when he agreed, along with David Baker, to allow false mortgage arrears figures to appear in footnotes accompanying the 2006 annual accounts.

As a result of these actions, Northern Rock left out almost 2,000 repossessions that were pending, but had not yet taken place.

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[David Jones] had numerous opportunities to put things right, but failed to do so”

Margaret ColeFinancial Services Authority

Mr Jones stressed that he had co-operated with the investigation and accepted that he did not ensure that financial information was presented correctly.

But he said the FSA's judgement was too severe: "I consider that the FSA's conclusions and imposed penalty are both unfair and disproportionate."

The FSA said that, from 2005, Northern Rock staff were under pressure to report arrears at half the rate of rivals.

If they had reported correct figures, said the FSA, Northern Rock's arrears would have increased by more than 50%, or repossessions figures by about 300%.

But, crucially, it would also have given investors and depositors a truer picture of the health of the bank.

Mr Jones argued, however, that investors received sufficient information to assess Northern Rock's financial position.


Northern Rock relied heavily on positive perceptions in order to attract the funds that catapulted it into becoming the UK's fifth largest lender.

But the credit crisis revealed it as unsound, and its near-collapse resulted in it being nationalised.

Margaret Cole, FSA director of enforcement and financial crime, said: "Jones had a duty to reveal the true position to the public and to important internal committees. He had numerous opportunities to put things right, but failed to do so.

"This is a message to all FSA approved persons, that they must take their individual responsibilities seriously at all times, or suffer the consequences."


Hans Blix: 'Iraq .....

Hans Blix: 'Iraq weapons inspectors were not given enough time'

It was "very hard" for Iraq to declare weapons programmes that did not exist, former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said today.
Dr Blix said UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed four months before the March 2003 invasion, gave Saddam Hussein the "chance for a new start".
He told the Iraq Inquiry he privately believed Saddam had kept weapons of mass destruction, but criticised the short time his Unmovic inspection team was given to search for them.
Dr Blix said he was in favour of resolution 1441, passed on November 8 2002, which declared Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to disarm and paved the way for the return of weapons inspectors.
"The declaration, I felt, might give Iraq a chance for a new start," he said.
"If they had weapons, which I thought might well be the case, they had an opportunity. Now here it is, they could put the blame on some general or other."
Inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne asked him: "Did you feel that it gave Iraq a realistic possibility of meeting the requirements of the resolution?"
Dr Blix replied: "Yes, except that it was very hard for them to declare any weapons when they didn't have any."
The former weapons inspector said he believed another resolution explicitly authorising military action was needed before attacks could be launched on Iraq.
"To me it was clear that a second resolution was required," he said.
Resolution 1441 said the weapons inspectors should give an update to the UN Security Council within 60 days.
Dr Blix questioned how this worked in practice, particularly in the light of the coalition's initial plans to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey.
He said: "I am a little puzzled, I must say, at how they calculated because the impression was that the invasion would take place through Turkey and that it would occur even in the beginning of January.
"That would have given (a) very very short time to the inspection.
"As it turned out we only had three-and-a-half months, but had they gone into Turkey it would have been even shorter."
He said he told then-prime minister Tony Blair in autumn 2002 of his belief that Saddam had maintained his WMD programmes.
"I, like most people at the time, felt that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"I did not say so publicly. I said it perhaps to Mr Blair in September 2002 privately, but not publicly."
Dr Blix also spoke of his disquiet at the US national security strategy published in September 2002, which set out the Bush administration's belief in its right to launch pre-emptive attacks.
He said: "The US in 2002, that time you refer to, threw it overboard. I think they were high on military at the time. They said, 'we can do it'."
The former weapons inspector compared attempts to deal with Iraq's supposed WMD in 2002-03 with current efforts to stop Tehran's ambitions to become a nuclear power.
"We have economic pressure against Iran. I do not think that is illegal. I think the use of force against Iran today would be illegal," he said.


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