Ethical Dilemmas

Campaign aims

Our Ethical Dilemmas campaign aimed to support clinicians in discussing with their patients the sensitive issue of accessing treatments that are not routinely available on the NHS. By providing guidance on the national and local processes, PCT (Primary Care Trust) funding applications and appeals, we hope to encourage more clinicians to consider, and demand, the newest and most clinically-effective treatments for their patients.


In 2009 we carried out a survey of forty consultant oncologists to explore the challenges they faced when discussing non-NHS-funded treatments with patients and more specifically, find out what support they received to enable them to have these difficult conversations.

The research findings were used to develop a booklet for clinicians, outlining the guidance that is available to them and useful resources for patients.


The survey results supported the assumption that clinicians did not feel adequately supported or guided by their NHS Trust on how to deal with these complex issues:

  • 75% of respondents are uncomfortable discussing unfunded treatment options
  • 80% say it the support provided to clinicians is either fairly or completely inadequate
  • 73% thought that clear national guidance would be helpful

The Ethical Dilemmas booklet was distributed to all bowel cancer centres across the UK and is available to clinicians on request.

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This page last reviewed: 24/03/2011

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