Simon Bridges: National committing to world-class cancer care

Opinion 30/07/2019

By Simon Bridges, National Party Leader, Leader of the Opposition.

This week I outlined National’s plan for cancer care. We want to ensure New Zealanders can lead better and longer lives. We know it’s personal. It’s about you, your families, your friends. But at the end of the day we all want better healthcare for New Zealanders.

The current Government has put 75 times more money into a political slush fund to help NZ First get re-elected than it has into PHARMAC. The extra 1 per cent for life-saving drugs doesn’t even cover inflation.

How is that caring and compassionate?

Cancer is the biggest cause of death in New Zealand.

It doesn’t discriminate and most New Zealanders will have a story of loved ones who have been affected by cancer.

That’s why we have announced a policy which would invest an extra $200 million over four years for PHARMAC to fund cancer drugs.

We will ensure those drugs go to those who need them.

We have also committed to introducing a National Cancer Agency to deliver better diagnoses, better access and better treatment for cancer sufferers across New Zealand.

Kiwis shouldn’t have to pack up their lives and go to other countries for cancer treatment. They shouldn’t have to mortgage their houses, set up Givealittle pages or take out huge loans, just to be able to afford medicines that are funded in other countries.

Too often we hear stories where if only someone had been diagnosed earlier, then they would’ve had more of a chance to survive.

The Cancer Agency will be involved in prevention, screening and treatment.

New Zealand is a world leader in research and innovation and the centre will also facilitate research so in the future we can prevent cancer and treat it more effectively.

It will also ensure no matter where you live in New Zealand you will get the same standard of care. People in regional New Zealand are often disadvantaged because they don’t have access to the same services as those in our biggest cities.

Most Kiwis around the country will have heard of a man called Blair Vining. Blair has stage four terminal bowel cancer and he wants to prevent people going through what he has gone through. As his daughter Lily said, it shouldn’t matter where you live in New Zealand or whether you’re rich or poor, anyone with cancer should be able to receive the best possible care.

Lily is absolutely right.

Our policy will mean all New Zealanders will have the same ability to get treatment.

It will mean diagnoses can be made earlier. It will mean Kiwis with cancer won’t be on the back foot when fighting what is often their hardest fight.

As MPs we hear endless, personal and heart-breaking stories about our constituents. When announcing our policy I spoke about Tracey Elliot, and how she and her husband are in the process of selling their home because they’re spending $9000 every three weeks on life-extending drugs.

Those same drugs they’re selling their family home to fund are fully funded in Australia.

Over the last couple of hundred years many people have come to New Zealand for better opportunities and lives. They shouldn’t have to leave again to get access to life-saving drugs. It’s not right they’re relying on selling their homes.

New Zealanders shouldn’t have to set up Givealittle pages just to stay alive.

National’s Cancer Fund is a priority for us. It’s going to help thousands of Kiwis. And our commitment to a National Cancer Agency will ensure where you live won’t affect your prognosis.

We should have a health system that is fair for everyone, regardless of your postcode.

Simon Bridges is Leader of the National Party and of the Opposition.