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​#GPnews: Jeremy Hunt watching mental health spending ‘like a hawk’

15:00 NHS Patients could face long waits to access new ‘life-saving’ drugs after health bosses agreed to stall the introduction of new treatments that NICE approves, a report in the Guardian says.

It comes after NICE backed proposals to allow NHS England to carry out an ‘impact test’ on new drugs and delay the introduction of any that are expected to cost £20m or more in any one of the first three years of their rollout across the NHS.

Under the current system, any drugs that NICE approves – on the basis that they are cost-effective at a threshold of £20,000-£30,000 per extra year of quality-adjusted life (QALY) gained – are supposed to be made available on the NHS within 90 days.

NICE and NHS England said that change will mean they get longer to negotiate with pharma firms on potential price reductions on new drugs.

Charities have objected to the move however, warning that it could be used to restrict access to certain groups of patients.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information, said: ‘A system that could add up to a three-year delay before patients can access treatments deemed clinically and cost effective is unacceptable’.

She said that ‘cancer patients may lose their lives while they wait’ and added that , while drug companies should be encouraged to price drugs responsibly, ‘we hope the government will reconsider the introduction of this new test, otherwise it will be patients, their families and carers who could pay the heaviest price’.

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, said: ‘We hope, and we think it is perfectly possible, that for some treatments which exceed the £20m budget impact in their first three years, there will be commercial agreements between companies and NHS England which will at least minimise and in some cases avoid completely the need for any delay for access for patients.’

13:50 Speaking at the NHS Confederation’s mental health network conference this morning, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Department of Health is watching how much funding CCGs are giving to mental health services ‘like a hawk’.

He told the healthcare leaders at the conference that CCGs are expected to give 13.1% of it’s funding allocation to mental health services this year, amounting to £340m for the services this year than was spent last year when CCGs were required to fund services with 12.5% of their allocation.

He said: ‘The practical impact of the legislation around parity of esteem means they cannot now do what some of them started to do which was to reduce the proportion of funding going to mental health and we are tracking that like a hawk.’

Mr Hunt also expanded on Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge in January to publish a green paper on children and young people’s mental health – a joint paper between the DH and the Department for Education.

Mr Hunt described children and young people’s mental health services as ‘possibly the biggest area of focus’ for the DH.

He said: ‘The plans were announced that we’re going to be doing a green paper on it and I think we need to look at what happens in schools.’

He added that the green paper will also ask ‘social media companies to play their part in curbing some of the negative things that happen online because there is still a completely inadequate response’ to issues like cyber bullying.

12:45 NHS prescription charges will rise by 20p to £8.60 per item from 1 April, the Government has announced.

Prescription pre-payment certificate costs will remain unchanged for another year, at £29.10 for a three-month certificate and £104 for 12 months.

Patients who require four or more items in three months or more than 12 items in one year have the option to save on prescription costs by using pre-payment certificates, as Pulse’s sister title the Pharmacist reports.

A Government statement on the changes said: ‘To ensure that those with the greatest need, including patients with long-term conditions, are protected we have frozen the cost of the prescription prepayment certificates for another year.

‘Taken together, this means prescription charges are expected to rise broadly in line with inflation.’

11:40 Bramcote Surgery in Nottingham is celebrating receiving a CQC outstanding rating – and bringing the proportion of practices rated outstanding to 50% in its CCG.

NHS Nottingham West CCG now has six practices with an outstanding rating, which it said made it one of the highest-rated areas of the country for quality and safety.

Nationally, just 3% of practices have received an outstanding rating.

NHS Nottingham West CCG clinical chair Dr Guy Mansford said they are ‘delighted that the hard work of our doctors, nurses and support teams is being acknowledged by the CQC’.

09:50 The number of patients waiting four hours or more at A&Es has quadrupled in some hospitals, warns the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).

The Hillingdon Hospitals in London was worst for meeting the four-hour wait target, at 68%.

And this comes as Dr Simon Howse, policy research manager at RCEM, said said there wasn’t evidence of people using A&E wrongly to a greater extent now compared to 10 years ago, reports the BBC.

He said: ‘In any health system some people turn up who are not in great need but studies show the level of unnecessary visits in the UK is very, very low.’

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