DH:   NICE will be nicer to patients in future - A package of measures designed to speed up access to new drugs & treatments for NHS patients, has been announced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The 4 proposed changes are meant to ensure that more NHS patients receive the life-saving, clinically & cost effective drugs and treatments they need faster.  It will also ensure that, where NICE guidance has not yet been issued for a new drug or treatment, the local NHS makes more robust & transparent decisions about what treatments it will fund.

The measures announced are:
* A consultation on a new & faster system for referring drugs to NICE for appraisal
* An additional new appraisal committee - to increase NICE’s capacity to appraise new drugs & treatments
* Increased investment in ‘horizon scanning’ to ensure that new drugs are identified early on for appraisal
* A guidance document for the NHS - detailing good practice on how decisions on new drugs should be made by Primary Care Trusts where there is no existing NICE guidance

The consultation on the proposed changes to the NICE topic selection will close on 22 May 2009, whilst the guidance to PCTs will be issued to the NHS with immediate effect. The measures also support the implementation of the recommendations in Mike Richard's review on the funding of additional private care.
Press release ~ Consultation on the Topic Selection Process for Technology Appraisals ~ Local decision-making about medicines (and treatments) ~ Consultation on draft guidance on NHS patients who wish to pay for additional private care ~ Improving access to medicines for NHS patient' ~ Paying for (expensive) drugs in the statutory system: an overview of experiences in 13 countries ~ NHS Constitution ~ NICE - Appraising end of life medicines ~ NICE press release

WAGIs poverty or safety the No.1 issue for children at risk? - Tackling child poverty and strengthening support to those families in greatest need is at the heart of a new Welsh law recently laid before the Welsh National Assembly by Ministers.  The proposed Children and Families (Wales) Measure is intended to help improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged children and families in Wales.

It sets a clear direction for the WAG’s aim of improving the quality of life & equality of opportunity for every community in Wales.  A duty will be placed on Welsh Ministers to develop a new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, which would have to be reviewed every 3 years.  The proposed Measure will also place a duty on specific Welsh public bodies to identify & take action to assist in the goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020.

Providing opportunities for play will also be embedded in the Measure, as will assuring children & young people’s participation in decisions which affect their lives. Welsh Ministers will also be able to place a duty on local authorities to secure free, high quality, targeted childcare in specific areas, in line with One Wales commitments.

New Integrated Family Support Teams will be created across Wales to help children & families whose complex needs such as substance misuse and domestic violence, require intense & multi-disciplinary support from skilled professionals.
Press release ~ Children in Wales ~ WAG – Child Poverty ~ Children in severe poverty in Wales: an agenda for action ~ Cymorth ~ Communities First ~ WAG - Community regeneration and development ~ Eradicating Child Poverty in Wales: Measuring Success ~ ‘Child Poverty Solutions Wales’ website ~ Toolkits ~ Save the Children in Wales ~ JRF: Combating child poverty in Wales: are effective education strategies in place? ~ Child Poverty Solutions Wales- Briefing (3)

ScotGovA tough challenge, but it impacts on so many lives in a family - The Scottish Government has published its framework for tackling Scotland's £2.25bn alcohol misuse problem.  The strategy was launched with minimum pricing and local flexibility to ban off-sales to under-21s among its key elements in tackling what health experts regard as Scotland's most pressing public health concern.

Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action aims to:
* Introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol to stop strong drink being sold for 'pocket money prices'
* Establish a legal obligation on licensing boards to consider whether alcohol-related problems in their area warrant an off-sales purchase age of 21, with local police Chief Constables able to request this at any time
*Ban off-sales promotions such as '3 for 2' and cut-price offers, which encourage bulk buying and over-consumption, and ban selling alcohol as a 'loss leader'
* Restrict the display & marketing of alcohol products to specified areas in off-sales premises
*Put in place the legal power to introduce a Social Responsibility Fee for some retailers

Those measures which require new legislation to implement will be included as part of the Scottish Government's forthcoming Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill
Press release ~ Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action ~ Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on the Scottish Government's Strategic Approach to Changing Scotland's relationship with Alcohol ~ ScotGov - Alcohol ~ Alcohol Health Alliance (UK) ~ Alcohol Focus Scotland ~ Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) ~ Scottish Licensed Trade Association ~ Pilot scheme to restrict sales of alcohol ~ Young Scot

TfLA logical solution for big city residents - Transport for London (TfL) has announced a £1m investment package to support the growth of car clubs across London over the next 2 years, to bring around a third of London residents within just a five minute walk of a car club vehicle.

The funding will be used to identify & install on-street parking bay locations & signage and help promote car clubs in London.  This will result in 726 new parking spaces for car club vehicles across 19 London boroughs during the next 2 years

Car clubs offer pay-as-you-go access to a car and are a cost effective way to give people all the benefits of using a car when they need to, while reducing the number of vehicles on London's roads, easing pressure on parking and reducing congestion.  Almost 53,000 Londoners are now members of a car club.  Members typically save nearly £3,500 a year by joining a car club and reduce their car mileage by an average of 36%. 
Press release ~ Carplus ~ TfL: Car Clubs Strategy ~ UK car clubs: an effective way of cutting vehicle usage and emissions? ~ Car Clubs

LCGTicking Timebomb put on hold - The Government has acted to protect the public from potential service cuts or council tax increases that could result from local authority investments in Icelandic banks, while efforts continue to recover the money.  Local Government Minister John Healey has laid regulations before Parliament that enable authorities to postpone any possible budgetary impact of this until 2010-11.

New statistics show that, as at the end of last year, 125 local authorities in England had outstanding investments of around £923.2m in Icelandic banks.  The Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 S.I. No. 321 made under the Local Government Act 2003, come into force on 31 March 2009 and apply immediately.
Press release ~ Regulations ~ CLG informal commentary on the regulations ~ Guidance by CIPFA ~ Survey of English local authority investments in Icelandic banks

CLG3% is still a lot more than interest on savings - Housing Minister Margaret Beckett has announced new support to help councils cut their planned rent increases for tenants in the current economic climate.  The average guideline rent increase for 2009/10 will be halved from 6.2 % to 3.1% for local authority tenants, to encourage councils to reduce the amount tenants would have to pay for the coming year.

Mrs Beckett announced that the Government would make funding available to support local authorities to make the changes and revise their rents for 2009/10 accordingly.  The government expects that the changes to the guideline rent increase means tenants should see a marked drop in their proposed average rent increase for the coming year from around £4 per week to approximately just under £2.
Press release ~ CLG – Council Housing Finance ~ Social rent reforms ~ The Review of Council Housing Finance – NFA position paper ~ Defend Council Housing Campaign

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