Lansley writes to GP magazine to deny Health Bill reforms will worsen drug access

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has rejected claims his Health Bill reforms will deepen problems over equality in access to drugs in a letter to GP magazine.

Mr Lansley: 'Far from lacking powers to fund drugs that NICE has yet to appraise, CCGs will on this issue have the same powers as PCTs have at the moment.'
Mr Lansley: 'Far from lacking powers to fund drugs that NICE has yet to appraise, CCGs will on this issue have the same powers as PCTs have at the moment.'

An NHS adviser had claimed that the lack of a mandate for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to fund treatments yet to be appraised by NICE and duplication of local decision making will worsen inequality in drug access.

But after reading last week's story, the health secretary wrote to GP arguing that his reforms will hand CCGs the power to fund drugs and respond better to local needs.

He wrote: 'Our plans to bring commissioning closer to patients will mean that the NHS and the services, treatments and drugs that it provides will be able to better respond to the needs of local patients.'

Mr Lansley continued: 'Far from lacking powers to fund drugs that NICE has yet to appraise, CCGs will on this issue have the same powers – and responsibilities – as PCTs have at the moment.

Read the full letter here

He went on to promise that the reforms will maintain patients' rights to drugs under the NHS Constitution.

In last week's story, Paul McManus, pharmacist and clinical advisor to NHS Yorkshire, had said: 'Increasingly, we’ve seen local health economies fill the gap left where NICE hasn’t carried out an appraisal or is in the process of an appraisal, with local organisations working together on local decision making processes and setting up regional groups, for example.'

He continued: 'I’m concerned that the proposals for value-based pricing that we’ve seen so far, and bearing in mind that there’s more information to come, will lead to a need for more local decision-making and greater inconsistency in access.'

GP leaders had echoed his warning, saying that the increase in the number of CCGs compared with PCTs is likely to increase variation and duplication unless commissioners can work together.

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