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Simon Bridges defends National's new cancer policy after Cancer Society criticism

Simon Bridges has defended National's conference policy of establishing a cancer agency and dedicated cancer funding - after the Cancer Society says that allocation will only fund three additional treatments. 

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National want to fund an independent cancer agency and set up a $200 million fund dedicated to cancer drugs over four years. Source: Q+A

On TVNZ1's Q+A last night, the Opposition leader was asked about his party's new policy to fund an independent cancer agency and set up a $200 million fund dedicated to cancer drugs over four years. 

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However, the Government may beat them to it, pledging to deliver its own cancer plan.

Last week, terminally ill Southland man Blair Vining's petition of 140,000 signatures calling for a national cancer agency - to ensure treatment is optimal across the country - was presented to Parliament. 

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Sunday meets Blair Vining, who wants to help other Kiwis before he dies. Source: Sunday

Mr Bridges said he was "convinced that people who have serious cancer are not getting the treatment and the time they want. The waiting lists are growing". 

He said the system needed "decent" funding and accountabilities to drive performance.

"Anecdotally, whether it's Blair Vining or others, we are going backwards."

However, the Cancer Society told Q+A that $50 million per year will only fund two or three additional treatments. The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition also said the funding pledge was "a step in the right direction, but falls well short of what is needed". 

Its chair, Libby Burgess, said to obtain the breast cancer drugs the country lacks would cost $30 to $40 million per year alone, and instead Pharmac's yearly spend of $220 million on cancer medicines would need to be doubled.

When asked of the funding allocation by host Jack Tame, Mr Bridges said that he would need to see the detail of that.

"I would argue that thousands of people will be better off under this $50 million a year for Pharmac, specifically for cancer drugs," he said.

"People are mortgaging their homes, selling their homes, setting up Givealittle pages. That’s not the sort of New Zealand I want to live in."

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The Opposition leader talks about his polling numbers, National’s cancer agency policy and Ihumātao, on July 29. Source: Q+A

Q+A is on TVNZ1 Mondays at 9.30pm, and the episode is then available on TVNZ OnDemand and as a podcast in all the usual places.