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GPs to be handed NICE’s rationing role

By Nigel Praities

The Government has revealed it intends to remove the job of deciding which drugs are available on the NHS from NICE – and give the responsibility direct to GPs instead.

In a major shake-up of the rationing of treatments on the NHS, NICE drug appraisals will become advisory – rather than statutory – and the decision about whether a patient receives a particular treatment will be taken at a local level by GPs.

The Department of Health says this development will be accompanied by a move towards ‘value-based’ pricing, where the price of treatments ‘will reflect the value they bring’.

According to reports this morning, the current Quality-Adjusted Life Year threshold used by NICE – around £30,000 per year – will be lifted from 2014.

The announcement comes after health secretary Andrew Lansley told the NAPC conference last month that GPs were in the best position to make the decision over whether a patient needed a particular drugs, leading to some warning GPs would be made the ‘scapegoats’ for NHS belt-tightening over the next few years.

Mr Lansley said the move would help the NHS keep pace with the developments in medical technologies, and also save money.

‘We will move to an NHS where patients will be confident that where their clinicians believe a particular drug is the right and most effective one for them, then the NHS will be able to provide it for them,’ he said.

NICE this morning welcomed the proposals.

Chief executive Andrew Dillon said: ‘We support moves to extend access to new treatments at prices which reflect the additional value to patients.’

Protests against NICE decisions are likely to be a thing of the past