Department of Health and Social Care
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Alan Johnson publishes proposals to make more drugs available on the NHS

Alan Johnson publishes proposals to make more drugs available on the NHS

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service. 4 November 2008


More drugs are to be made available to patients on the NHS, particularly for those facing a terminal illness, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

A landmark report, published by the National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, 'Improving access to medicines for NHS patients', recommends a package of measures to substantially widen access to drugs on the NHS and reduce the need for patients to resort to private treatment.

The Health Secretary also announced that, from today, the NHS should not withdraw treatment from the few patients who may still choose to pay privately for additional drugs. But he made clear that while private care can be carried out alongside NHS care, private treatment should take place in a private facility and must not be subsidised by the NHS.

New proposals by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) also published today, set out a new system for appraising expensive drugs designed to help those with severe illness. At the same time, NICE will work with the Department of Health to speed up the appraisal process, so that patients have faster and more consistent access to new therapies.

The package of measures includes:

* Supporting NICE's proposal for greater flexibility in appraising more expensive drugs for terminally ill patients;

* Working closely with the pharmaceutical industry to agree new and more flexible pricing arrangements to increase access to new drugs - these will include lower initial prices, with the option of higher prices if value is proven at a later date, and patient access schemes;

* Speeding up the NICE appraisal process for new drugs so that they become available to patients more quickly;

* Improving quality and consistency of local decisions by setting out core principles to guide primary care trusts on the funding of new drugs, where there is no NICE guidance in place; and

* Publishing today a consultation on revised guidance for trusts for those rare cases where patients purchase additional private care.

Alan Johnson said:

"I am grateful to Professor Richards and his team for this highly authoritative and thorough review, which involved consultation with over 2000 patients, members of the public, clinicians, nurses, NHS managers and NHS organisations.

"The measures I have set out, together with the improvements proposed by NICE, mean that a greater range of more expensive therapies will be available to more patients on the NHS - reducing the need for them to seek private care.

"A small number of patients may still choose to pay for additional drugs not available on the NHS. But I have agreed that, from today, NHS care must never be withdrawn in these cases - as long as private treatment takes place in a private facility.

"This issue was causing distress to patients and their relatives - and none of us wanted that uncertainty and inconsistency to continue. Patients and the public can be confident that from today there will be greater clarity, greater fairness and, most importantly, greater access to a wider range of drugs."

Today's measures build on the principles already enshrined in the NHS Constitution - which include the right of all NHS patients to access NICE approved drugs or treatments if their doctor recommends them as clinically appropriate.


1. The Health Secretary set out these measures today (Tuesday 4 November 2008) in an Oral Statement to Parliament. The statement is available from the DH press office on 020 7210 5221.

2. Today's announcement follows a six month review led by Professor Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer, on the effect of current policy on the small number of patients who choose to pay privately for some drugs and who as a result have had to pay for care they would have received free on the NHS. The full report 'Improving access to medicines for NHS patients' can be found at:

3. The Health Secretary announced the review and terms of reference during Health Questions in the House of Commons on 17 June 2008. A transcript can be found at:

4. The consultation published today on the draft guidance to trusts for patients who wish to pay for additional private care can be found at: http:/

5. The consultation on the draft NHS Constitution was published on 30 June 2008. The consultation closed on 17 October 2008. Further details can be found at:

APM Conference 2023 - Change Changes: Thursday 8th June, The Vox, Birmingham