Minister endorses Richards’ health top-up plan

Cancer tzar Professor Mike Richards’ recommendation that NHS patients be allowed to pay for drugs privately has been accepted by health secretary Alan Johnson.

The Government has endorsed all 14 of Richards’ proposals for health top-ups, which healthcare professionals expect to lead to rapid product development from providers.
Professor Richards has proposed that patients paying for their own treatment will have to receive it away from other NHS patients, either in private wards in NHS hospitals or in completely different hospitals altogether.
He has also called for patients suffering from side-effects of topped-up drugs to be required to pay for this themselves and that the entire cost of administering top-up treatment, including ancillary assistance in relation to it be self funded, in a bid to insulate the NHS from being burdened with any additional costs as a result of the change in policy.
Johnson’s approval of the proposals have been coupled with an announcement from the Department of Health that the process for NICE approval of drugs will be made quicker and more comprehensive.
Johnson said: “The measures I have set out, together with the improvements proposed by NICE, mean that a greater range of more expensive therapies will be available to more patients on the NHS – reducing the need for them to seek private care.

“A small number of patients may still choose to pay for additional drugs not available on the NHS. But I have agreed that, from today, NHS care must never be withdrawn in these cases – as long as private treatment takes place in a private facility.

”This issue was causing distress to patients and their relatives – and none of us wanted that uncertainty and inconsistency to continue. Patients and the public can be confident that from today there will be greater clarity, greater fairness and, most importantly, greater access to a wider range of drugs.”

Richards says: “Patients should be able to receive additional private drugs as long as these are delivered separately from the NHS elements of their care, and providers should establish clear clinical governance arrangements to ensure that patients who do elect to purchase additional private treatment receive good continuity of care.”