NHS Patients To Benefit From Improved Drugs Access

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A package of measures designed to speed up access to new drugs and treatments for NHS patients, was announced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Health Minister Lord Darzi.

The four proposed changes will ensure that more NHS patients receive the life-saving, clinically and cost effective drugs and treatments they need faster. It will also ensure that where NICE guidance has not yet been issued for a new drug or treatment the local NHS makes more robust and transparent decisions about what treatments it will fund.

The measures announced today by Lord Darzi and NICE are:

* A consultation on a new and faster system for referring drugs to NICE for appraisal - proposals will enable NICE to issue more timely guidance, in turn giving patients faster access to drugs and treatments.

* An additional new appraisal committee - to ensure that NICE has the capacity it needs to appraise new drugs and treatments as promptly as possible;

* Increased investment in "horizon scanning" to ensure that new drugs are identified early on for appraisal; and

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* A guidance document for the NHS - detailing good practice on how decisions on new drugs should be made by Primary Care Trusts where there is no existing NICE guidance . This will be supported by a programme of training and support to assist theNHS to implement the guidance.

Announcing the package of measures, Health Minister, Lord Darzi, said: "Last year in High Quality Care for All I set out our commitment to speed up the NICE process. Together, the measures set out today build on this commitment and will help provide faster and fairer access to new drugs and treatments - great news for patients.

We are delighted to be working in partnership with NICE to ensure that new drugs and treatments are assessed sooner and more quickly in future, leading to improved and higher quality care for patients.

"The guidance for PCTs will help the NHS to ensure that local decisions are robust and transparent, leading to more consistency in those exceptional cases where there is no existing NICE guidance."

Chief Executive of NICE, Andrew Dillon, said: "This is an important consultation on the way that topics are chosen and referred for NICE's world-leading appraisals of new drugs and treatments. We are very keen to ensure that our guidance is produced as quickly as possible to benefit patients and the NHS.

"Speeding up non-cancer appraisals by at least three months to come in to line with the cancer appraisals, and increasing transparency by clarifying topic selection criteria, are just some of the potential improvements we and the Department of Health are suggesting.

"The views of patients, the public, health professionals and other stakeholders on the proposed changes to the topic selection process will be very helpful, and we look forward to receiving their comments."

The consultation on the proposed changes to the NICE topic selection will run for 3 months whilst the guidance to PCTs will be issued to the NHS with immediate effect.

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