A clear divide in the number of patients approved to access cancer drugs has appeared between England, Scotland and Wales, campaigners say.

People in England are much more likely to get drugs their doctors think might work for them than those living in Scotland or Wales, according to analysis by the Rarer Cancers Foundation (RCF).

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the RCF gathered data from health trusts in England on the types of drugs approved through the government’s cancer drugs fund.

The fund, worth £200m a year, was set up for patients in England to access drugs approved by their doctors but which have not been given the go-ahead for widespread use on the NHS.

The data was then compared with exceptional case approvals for the same drugs in Scotland and Wales.

The analysis suggests that patients in England are three times more likely to access key cancer drugs as those in Scotland, and five times as likely as those in Wales.

RCF chief executive Andrew Wilson said: “The cancers drugs fund is great news for people in England and has already benefited thousands of patients.

“However, a devastating divide has opened up with Scotland and Wales. A cancer drug does not become any less effective simply because it is prescribed on the other side of a border.

“Nor does a patient’s need become any less pressing. The NHS should be there when you need it the most, regardless of where you live.

“People in Scotland and Wales will want to know why their chances of accessing a life-extending cancer drug are so much lower than their neighbours in England.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said the report would be carefully considered.

“Scotland has robust, equitable and transparent arrangements for the introduction of newly-licensed clinically and cost-effective medicines through the Scottish Medicines Consortium and Healthcare Improvement Scotland which operate independently from the Scottish government,” she added.

“These focus on equity of access to newly-licensed drugs throughout Scotland, on the basis of their clinical and cost-effectiveness.

“These arrangements include flexibility for additional factors to be taken into account in prescribing decisions, such as opportunities for local clinically-led consideration of SMC ‘not recommended’ medicines for individual patients in certain circumstances.”