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Drugs pricing revamp ‘will undermine GP consortia’, say NHS managers

By Lilian Anekwe

The Government’s plans to overhaul the drug pricing system could ‘increase the NHS drugs bill without improving the effectiveness of treatments patients receive’, NHS managers have warned.

The response from the NHS Confederation on the Department of Health’s consultation on value-based pricing dismissed the proposals as ‘a good idea turned into poor policy’.

It warned that switching to the new system could ‘politicise’ the process by which decisions on which drugs are funded by the NHS and make decisions, which are set to be taken locally by GP consortia, less transparent.

The DH consultation has sought opinions on switching to a new pricing system that will assign drugs a ‘value-based price’, which it says ‘aims to give NHS patients better access to effective and innovative medicines’.

But in its response the NHS Confederation, which represents managers across the NHS, said it was ‘not convinced’ it would drive innovation in medicine, and argued that limiting the role of NICE in assessing and setting the value-based price of drugs would potentially harm public confidence.

Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, urged ministers to rethink the policy.

‘The current process is not perfect and pricing based on value is good in principle. But this is a case of a good idea that has turned into poor policy. We simply don’t see that the process suggested will achieve what the Government wants.

‘These proposals could push up costs without increasing effectiveness, damage public confidence in the decision-making process, and fail to spark greater innovation.

‘The Government’s current proposals could end up with the NHS footing a large bill without much benefit to patients. The Government is trying to do the right thing but without changing course it could end up causing real difficulty for commissioners about how best to spend money on patient care.

‘At a time when NHS finances are under severe constraints, we are worried that this policy will direct resources away from “non-pharmaceutical” services such as palliative nursing care, and preventative treatments which could offer greater value to a wider group of people.’

Drugs pricing revamp ‘will undermine GP consortia’, say NHS managers