WPA squares up to NHS on drugs

WPA is threatening judicial review proceedings against the National Health Service if its refuses to administer cancer drugs it has bought for clients of its private medical insurance.

The provider is piling on the pressure at a time when the Government has called for an urgent review of the NHS’s policy of denying services to patients who top up their care with private treatment.

The review is expected to pave the way for a policy reversal that will allow people suffering from cancer and other diseases to pay privately for life-saving drugs denied to them on the NHS, while still receiving state-funded treatment.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, has ordered the review, which will report its findings in October, to be led by Professor Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer.

Johnson said the review “should take into account the importance of enabling patients to have choice” and also “the need to uphold the founding principle of the NHS that treatment is based on clinical need, not ability to pay”.

The review follows outcry over a number of cases of members of the public being denied treatment in conjunction with drugs they had bought themselves.

WPA’s challenge comes as it launches NHS ‘Health Top-Up’, a health plan designed to plug the gaps in NHS care.

Health Top-Up is aimed at companies and individuals and offers top up options including access to advanced cancer drugs, cosmetic surgery and medical cover for travel abroad which are unavailable in traditional health cash plans. It offers many of the features already available in its My Cancer Drugs product.

“We may go for a judicial review if the NHS refuses to administer drugs that we have been able to buy for our clients. We have got a strong legal opinion that indicates we have grounds for a legal challenge,” says Charlie McEwan, director of communications at WPA.

“Health Top-Up provides an effective solution to help people budget for their healthcare – prevention and treatment – and take away the hidden costs when people choose to be treated on the NHS. It is highly innovative with the cosmetic surgery benefit and cancer drugs option unavailable in products such as this in the UK. It has been conceived as an ‘NHS plus’ plan that supplements what the NHS can deliver and still allows patients to ‘vote NHS’ first,” says McEwan.

A YouGov poll carried out earlier this year found that 78 per cent of the population believe you should be allowed to top up NHS care privately.