Weakening role of NICE risks making the NHS less efficient

Economist warns against NICE becoming a 'library' of evidence.

Professor Towse: 'The worst possible outcome would be getting the evidence and making the recommendations and it doesn’t change how the NHS operates'

Widening NICE's role risks emasculating the organisation and introducing inefficiency in the NHS, a leading health economist has warned.

The DoH revealed in September that NICE's role will move away from deciding whether drugs should be given NHS funding towards offering advice on treatment effectiveness.

Professor Adrian Towse, director of the Office of Health Economics, said NICE must change practice and not end up as a 'library' of good advice.

At a Westminster Health Forum event last month, he said: 'As NICE is changing and expanding its role, the most important thing is that we do not turn NICE into a library. If that is all that NICE is, we're going to lose an incredible amount of efficiency.'

He added: 'The worst possible outcome would be that we spent all the effort in getting the evidence and making the recommendations and it does not change how the NHS operates.'

Professor Towse also said it was unclear whether the mandate on PCTs to implement NICE's technology assessments would remain, even though this had a 'dramatic' effect on uptake.

Dr Carole Longson, director of NICE's centre for health technology evaluation (HTE), said NICE needed to continue to assess cost-effectiveness.

She said NICE had a key role to play in balancing the health needs of the public with those of individuals.

'NICE occupies that very challenging space at the heart of that contradiction,' she said.

'We are going to have to maintain our independence and also our focus on being at the heart of that space of contradiction between fair allocation of resources across the population and the absolutely genuine and understandable desires on an individual basis.'

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