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GP commissioners 'will have freedom to overrule NICE'

By Lilian Anekwe

GP commissioners may be forced to bow to patient pressure and prescribe treatments not recommended by NICE, a Government minister has admitted.

Science minister David Willetts told the British Science Festival in Birmingham last week that GPs would have to commission treatments for which there is ‘very strong demand', even if they hadn't been given the green light by NICE.

He said GPs would have the freedom to overrule NICE and commission services that had not been through its appraisal process where there was sufficient demand from patients.

‘One of the ideas is that there will be greater power and responsibility with groups of GPs in our decentralised model. NICE will, of course, continue to offer advice but ultimately GPs will have scope for responding to what their patients are demanding.

‘They will have the ability to prescribe things like homeopathy even if they do not meet any NICE requirements. If GPs do detect very strong patient demand, they will be able to respond to that. Under our new role, there will be greater scope for GPs to respond to patient demand.

But Mr Willetts insisted GPs should act as their patients' ‘friend' and consider their needs alongside scientific evidence.

‘You have to balance that argument about patient demand alongside the scientific evidence. GPs will be the purchasers on behalf of patients. They will be the patients' friend and agent through the system.'

GPs may be able to commission homeopathy services even if they do not meet NICE's requirements

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