Skip to main content

NICE-approved Drugs

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

5. What steps he is taking to ensure drugs approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence are made available to all patients in the NHS. (88270)

The NHS is required to fund drugs and technologies recommended in NICE technology appraisals, in line with the NHS constitution. The NHS chief executive’s report “Innovation, Health and Wealth” sets out plans for the introduction of a compliance regime to ensure rapid and consistent implementation of NICE technology appraisal recommendations throughout the NHS.

I greatly welcome the Government’s recent announcement on swift and proper implementation of NICE guidance that allows patients access to innovative treatments. In order for cost-effective treatments to secure NICE guidance approval, in the first instance will the Secretary of State ensure that NICE’s methodology review reinforces the importance of appraisal appropriately reflecting clinical practice when assessing new treatments?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who clearly understands that NICE is responsible for the methods it uses in the development of its guidance and that it is undertaking a review of its appraisal methods. I expect that that will be published for consultation this year. NICE should issue final guidance only after careful consideration of the evidence and public consultation with stakeholders, including patient and professional groups.

It is sometimes hard to follow the Secretary of State as he can get lost in his own jargon. Just to be clear: if NICE says that a drug should be available to patients on the NHS wherever they live and whatever their clinical commissioning group, will they get it? Can he give that guarantee today?

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that did not happen under the last Government. The NHS chief executive’s innovation report of early December made it clear that we will make certain that when NICE gives a positive appraisal for a medicine, it is automatically included in formularies, and also that we will establish an effective compliance regime in respect of NICE appraisals and establish a new NICE implementation collaborative to make it happen. As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the legislation is clear: when NICE gives a positive appraisal, a medicine should be available across the NHS. That was not achieved under his Government. We will achieve that, and the NHS chief executive is setting out to show how that will happen in the future.

Under the current regime of primary care trust commissioning, my constituents in Warwickshire often complain to me that drugs approved by NICE are not always available locally but are available in neighbouring commissioning areas. What steps are being taken to ensure that new NHS commissioning boards and local commissioning groups promote the NHS constitution and the right of patients to access NICE-approved drugs?

My hon. Friend makes exactly the right point, in that what the last Government said happened did not happen: such medicines were not available, and there was a postcode lottery in accessing many of them. That, among other reasons, is why the chief executive of the NHS published his report, which will introduce the NICE compliance strategy. We will require all NICE technology appraisals to be incorporated automatically in the local drug formularies, and the NICE implementation collaboration will support the prompt implementation of NICE guidance.

Last week in my constituency, a community pharmacist refused to issue a blind patient with dosage packs unless they paid an additional fee. What redress will such patients have in the newly reorganised NHS regarding actions such as this by community pharmacists, which in my view are against the Disability Discrimination Act?

I should be grateful if the hon. Lady wrote to me about that case and gave me the opportunity to look at it, which I would be pleased to do. From my point of view, we do not countenance such requirements, through charging, denying patients access to any NHS treatment.

In addition to approving drugs, NICE has also approved acupuncture for lower back pain. Should this not be widely available on the health service now?

Of course, my hon. Friend will know very well that choice of treatment is a shared decision between patients and their clinicians. NICE appraisals are about whether treatments are available in the NHS and giving information to clinicians about their relative clinical and cost-effectiveness, not prescribing that treatments should be available in specific circumstances.