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Muscle-wasting Conditions

Volume 598: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2015

3. What steps he is taking to ensure that clinical commissioning groups routinely fund cough-assist machines for people with muscle-wasting conditions when a clinical need has been identified. (900778)

Muscle-wasting conditions associated with neurodegenerative disorders affect about 60,000 people in England at the moment. The Government are supporting research through the National Institute for Health Research, totalling £39 million. NHS England, CCGs and Muscular Dystrophy UK have come together and are jointly working on the “Bridging the Gap” report to improve neuromuscular disease, and the Department of Health is supporting this work with funding of £600,000. Decisions on the funding of cough-assist machines are rightly the responsibility of CCGs on a case-by-case basis.

As revealed in Muscular Dystrophy UK’s “Right to breathe” report published in February 2015, in some areas of the country patients have access to cough-assist machines which the local clinical commissioning group will not fund in other areas, despite a clinical need being clearly identified. These machines can help to prevent potentially fatal respiratory problems and to reduce costs and lengthy, unplanned hospital visits. A cough-assist machine costs £4,500, whereas a long stay in an intensive care unit can cost more than £13,000. [Interruption.] Will the Minister meet me and representatives of Muscular Dystrophy UK to discuss how better consistency in provision of vital respiratory equipment—

My answer of a few moments ago stands. Decisions on the commissioning of those machines are taken on a case-by-case basis locally. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has set out in guidance that cough-assist machines may be appropriate for some patients, but not in every area.