Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Not Nice

Matching up expensive drug treatments with limited funds is not easy. Today Anna Wolfenden published her open letter to the Assembly Government health minister about a cancer drug that is not yet available on the NHS. She is not the first to complain about the decisions of NICE, the body with the difficult task of deciding which treatments can be funded.

During debates of this sort you can always rely on someone to invoke the ghost of Aneurin Bevan by mentioning the 'principles of the NHS' (namely that treatment is free at the point of need). But health expenditure is going to simply carry on rising all the time - and faster than our ability to pay.

Are these 'principles of the NHS' really fit for twenty-first century healthcare purposes? Surely equitable health outcomes for all might be a better principle to aspire to rather than holding fast to a mechanism for delivery that was not planned with these expensive drugs in mind. Anyway, in England (and for the moment in Scotland) you have to pay for your prescriptions, so treatment is already not free at the point of need across the NHS.

3 comments:

James 10 September 2008 at 11:35  

Most of those that need prescriptions in Wales under the old system got them free.

Anonymous 10 September 2008 at 12:54  

The problem is we've now got people going to their GPs for things like Asprin and Tampons on prescription. The idea of the free prescriptions in the first place was to secure more votes for the sagging labour party, nothing more, nothing less.

The Lib Dem principle of free prescriptions was for people who had long term conditions, like arthritis who have to take medications over a number of years or for the rest of their life or until a cure comes along.

In addition, we have a precription system now in place in England whereby the medication prescribed is substancially less than the cost of the prescription.

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems

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