Top-up fees may mean patients switching wards to take private drugs

Seriously ill patients could be forced to switch wards so that they can take lifesaving drugs without compromising NHS principles, the DoH has admitted.

Mike Richards
Mike Richards

In its recent report on top-up fees the Health Select Committee backed moves to allow patients to privately fund drugs not recommended by NICE, without placing their NHS care at risk.

But it said it was concerned that the proposed separation between private and NHS care could result in patients being moved, ‘so as to administer a privately paid for drug separately'.

‘This undoubted disruption to a patient's quality of life just to meet some bureaucratic requirement would endanger the patient's care,' it said.

But a DoH response, released this week, said that such a separation was vital to ‘uphold the principle the NHS should not subsidise private care'. England's clinical director for cancer Professor Mike Richards had said this approach could be delivered ‘safely and effectively', it noted.

But it added that ‘in exceptional cases', patient safety would be ‘overriding'.

The government's response ignored the Committee's concerns that such a separation could result in ‘an expensive bureaucratic system'. It also ducked questions about whether changing NICE rules on end-of-life treatments would make the system unaffordable.

But it did address the Committee's concerns that devolving decision making over certain treatments to PCTs would result in a post-code lottery, and told PCTs they should ‘work collaboratively where appropriate' when deciding whether to fund drugs.


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