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BMA and RCGP to fight plan to hand GPs rationing role

By Alisdair Stirling

The BMA is set to join forces with the RCGP and other medical colleges to lobby ministers over their plans to make GPs rather than NICE responsible for ruling on the affordability of treatments.

The BMA Council voted for action last week after hearing that the plans will create a postcode lottery for medicines and put GP commissioning consortia under undue prescribing pressure. The proposals will also undermine the doctor-patient relationship because patients might think GPs were holding back on treatments available elsewhere, the meeting heard.

Last month the Government announced that NICE drug appraisals are to become advisory, with the decision about whether a patient receives a particular treatement to be taken at a local level by GPs instead.

There was a 'high degree of agreement' among council members that NICE had been a good way to look at the cost-effectiveness of medicine, and that the responsibility should not pass to GPs, Pulse has learned.

Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury and member of BMA Council, said: ‘We agreed that the GPC and the RCGP should co-sign a letter to [health minister] Lord Howe about the NICE proposals, and I think the BMA will look to some of the other College leaders about that.'

'We are concerned about the proposals in the context of GP commissioning. We are concerned that there will be pressure on GPs to prescribe, from individual patients' lobby groups, from pharma companies influencing the media, and that patients might get the wrong idea that GPs are holding back on certain treatments for their own purposes really. Whereas if you have a single body telling everyone what are good treatments, you can as a GP defend your decisions based on that.'

Dr Mary Church, a GP in Glasgow and also a BMA Council member, said: 'Although NICE wasn't perfect, it was a fair system. I believe the proposals will recreate the postcode lottery in England that existed before NICE was formed."

The BMA is to join forces with the RCGP to fight the Government's plans The BMA is to join forces with the RCGP to fight the Government's plans