Health minister 'sympathetic' to Lord's cancer campaign

A health minister is 'sympathetic' to Lord Saatchi's bid to speed up cancer treatment by increasing freedom for doctors to stray away from standard medical procedures without fear of litigation.

Dr Dan Poulter spoke on the BBC about the Saatchi bill
Dr Dan Poulter spoke on the BBC about the Saatchi bill

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the government needs to look at the concerns of some healthcare professionals that it takes too long to bring new ideas forward in the NHS, during a BBC interview, see the video below.

Dr Poulter said that he would meet the Conservative peer to discuss his private member’s bill, called the Medical Innovation Bill, launched in December.

The law in its current form 'provides no inducement to progress' in curing cancer because it means that any deviation by a doctor from standard procedure leaves them open to claims of medical negligence, Lord Saatchi believes.

Dr Poulter said: ‘We are very sympathetic to the ideas and we certainly would like to engage further. I think Jeremy Hunt as secretary of health has already spoken to Lord Saatchi and I know that I will be very keen to continue discussions because we have to do everything we can to improve patient care.

‘There are concerns certainly, that some medical professionals have, that sometimes when they bring forward or have new ideas about how to improve care for patients that sometimes they cannot bring them forward as quickly as they would like to do. This is something that I think we do need to look at.

‘It is fair to say that one problem, that was a problem in the past, was getting quick access to drugs and we introduced, as a government, the Cancer Drugs Fund which has meant that 25,000 more people are getting access to drugs. But there are concerns certainly, that some medical professionals have, that sometimes when they bring forward or have new ideas about how to improve care for patients that sometimes they cannot bring them forward as quickly as they would like to do. This is something that I think we do need to look at.’

Through the Medical Innovation Bill, Lord Saatchi, whose wife Josephine Hart died from peritoneal cancer in 2011, said he wishes to encourage doctors to seek improvement on the standard procedure. One of the Bill’s purposes is to ‘codify existing best practice as to decisions by doctors to innovate where evidence-based treatment or management is not optimal or appropriate, because the available evidence is insufficient or uncertain’.

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