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Better cancer care

We're taking action to ensure New Zealanders living with cancer have access to high quality care no matter who they are or where they live.

Being told you or someone you love has cancer is one of the scariest experiences anyone can face. But that’s what happens to 66 New Zealanders, loved by 66 families and communities, every single day.

That’s why we’ve announced the Cancer Action Plan – so everyone battling cancer in New Zealand can get the best possible care, no matter where they live.

We campaigned on improving cancer care and establishing a national cancer agency because after years of underfunding by the previous government our standard of care is variable and we have work to do to ensure better outcomes for Maori and Pacific people.

We know our health system is under serious pressure after years of neglect and underinvestment. For too long in this county issues like mental health, investment in nurse and doctors and funding for cancer treatment were not prioritised.

Our Government is changing that. We’re taking action to ensure Kiwis living with cancer have access to high quality care delivering:

  • Five new cancer drugs funded through PHARMAC
  • A Cancer Control Agency, to provide leadership on cancer care
  • More investment in prevention and early detection
  • Expanding access to radiation treatment, by funding twelve new Linear Accelerator machines in our regions.

Improving cancer survival rates in New Zealand is a long-term challenge. Cancer is our greatest killer, with about 10,000 deaths each year. That won’t be solved overnight. But this plan will deliver earlier detection, and better treatment. It will save lives.

PM Jacinda Ardern discussing Labour's Cancer Action Plan at Auckland Hospital, Sept 2019

Questions and answers

How can New Zealanders give their feedback?

From 1 September 2019 to 13 October 2019, the Ministry of Health is seeking feedback from New Zealanders about the cancer action plan. Feedback will inform the final version of the Cancer Action Plan which is due to be released by the end of 2019.

The Cancer Action Plan is available online here.

New Zealanders can have their say on the plan here.

How will this cancer agency help people?

We heard loud and clear from New Zealanders that we needed a central agency. The cancer agency will drive the implementation of the Cancer Action Plan, which focuses on equity and delivering nationally consistent services for all New Zealanders, no matter where they live or who they are.

Who will lead the cancer agency? How was this decision made?

Diana Sarfati, has been appointed as the interim national director of Cancer Control, starting immediately. She has a six-month appointment and will lead the cancer agency.

How does this differ to what National promised?

National’s cancer fund was big on rhetoric and short on detail. We’ve announced a comprehensive approach to cancer control, covering the full spectrum of care, not just drugs. National had nothing to say on prevention, screening, radiation treatment – or on tackling regional variations in the standard of care. We’re also still working on options for early access to medicines.

How will you address workforce issues?

We understand it takes a long time to train cancer specialists and senior nurses. A part of the national director of Cancer Control’s job will be to look at the issues around workforce.

When a DHB is under-performing what can this agency do?

The agency reports directly to the Minister of Health – so there is a direct line of accountability and transparency there for the public. In health there haven’t traditionally been a huge number of levers central government can pull to address poor performance. There are significant steps that can be taken – for example, changes at the Board level, and the Minister has not shied away from taking that kind of action when needed.

How does New Zealand’s performance on cancer care compare with other countries?

We have been at the middle of the pack, but recently, we’ve started to fall behind. That’s why it’s so important that we act now.

Can you give PHARMAC a funding boost solely for cancer drugs?

PHARMAC is an independent agency – that’s really important. What we do know is that PHARMAC has a list of drugs that are ‘next on the list’ – PHARMAC has said it intends to fund new drugs for ovarian cancer, breast cancer and leukaemia. The medicines are Lynparza for ovarian cancer, Faslodex for breast cancer, and Venclexta for chronic lymphatic leukaemia.

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