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NHS: Fees and Charges

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the next stage of the NHS co-payments review will examine means of reducing inequality between patients who can and cannot afford to co-pay for treatments which are unavailable on the NHS. (254719)

Professor Mike Richards completed his review in October 2008, and the Secretary of State made his report, “Improving access to medicines for NHS patients”, public on 4 November 2008. A copy of the report has already been placed in the Library.

In his report, Professor Richards carefully considered equity issues before making recommendations to the Secretary of State about policy on additional private care. In line with Professor Richards’ recommendations, the Secretary of State announced a package of measures to improve access to drugs on the national health service, including a new scheme from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to introduce greater flexibility in appraising expensive drugs for end of life conditions with small numbers of patients. These measures will mean that more drugs are available on the NHS, which will reduce the number of patients who may wish to buy additional private drugs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanism will be put in place to ensure that the possibility for patients to co-pay for a treatment does not act as a disincentive for NHS primary care trusts to fund that treatment. (254722)

It is one of the guiding principles of the national health service that a person should have access to health services based on clinical need, and not on the ability of a patient to pay. Professor Richards’ review, “Improving access to medicines for NHS patients”, was based on, and reinforces, this principle. “The NHS Constitution”, published on 21 January 2009, also reaffirmed this as one of the key principles underpinning all that the NHS does. Copies of both documents have already been placed in the Library. Decisions by primary care trusts on funding for individual patients are no exception to this.