Cancer patients await Government's plan to tackle the disease

Thousands of cancer sufferers will be watching Sunday as the Government announces its long-awaited 10-year plan for the disease.

High-profile patient and advocate Blair Vining says he hopes to see a raft of changes to the status quo, which has seen us fall behind other OECD countries in treatment and survival rates.

"[Shortening] the waiting times, so when you do find out the bad news you get through the system in a couple of weeks. And somebody independent to lead it, so they can hold the DHBs accountable for anything that's not going on properly."

Vining ran a petition calling for an independent national cancer agency which racked up almost 150,000 signatures. He says the plan "better be good".

"I just don't think it's been a big enough priority. People have just looked over the top of it. The whole situation has come about because too many people have been doing the wrong jobs. If we simplify things and get the right people in the right jobs, I think that will help a lot."

The Cancer Control Council, established in 2005 to provide independent advice free from politicians' interference, was canned by the National-led Government in 2015.

"Successive Governments have dropped the ball on cancer care," oncologist Chris Jackson told The AM Show in July. "We saw the last National Government get rid of the cancer leadership group, the Cancer Control Council; we saw this Government promise big, and so far we haven't quite seen that manifest."

There has also been much criticism of the 'postcode lottery' which sees different levels of treatment from each district health board, rather than a centralised nationwide service. 

Vining says his story is just one of hundreds.

"We fell through gaps in the system, and we really wanted to bring it to people's attention just how bad the system failings were... over 140,00 people jumped on board to ask for change."

National has promised to set aside $200 million to a fund dedicated to buying cancer drugs, if it wins next year's election. 

"New Zealanders shouldn't have to pack up their lives and go to other countries for cancer treatment," leader Simon Bridges told the party faithful at its annual conference in July.

"New Zealanders shouldn't have to mortgage their houses, set up a Givealittle page or take out massive loans to be able to afford medicines which are funded in other countries."

Health Minister David Clark at the time said politicians shouldn't be interfering in Pharmac's decisions of what drugs to buy. 

Pharmac nearly doubled its spending on cancer drugs between 2011 and 2017, when National was last in power. Overall spending on health per person fell in that same time period.

The UK's cancer drugs fund, set up nearly a decade ago, has had little impact on survival rates.