The end to the ‘postcode lottery’ will have to wait a little longer. Hopes were raised earlier this year when the Department of Health unveiled plans to introduce an ‘innovation scorecard’. The scheme would prevent hospitals blacklisting expensive drugs recommended by NICE. Patients, regardless of their location, would be able to receive the latest treatments without delay.
The DH initially planned to have the scorecard “fully implemented by the Autumn.” But, after discussions with the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry, it now looks likely that the scorecard will not be in place until the end of the year.
Speaking exclusively to Pharmaceutical Field, a DH spokesperson said talks were still ongoing between the health service and pharma to “collect all the data and information needed to ensure the scheme is accurate and effective. It will be launched in the coming months.”
The new scheme is expected to work in three different ways:
- The innovation scorecard will allow patients and the public to see which NHS organisations have adopted the latest NICE guidance on recommended drugs and treatments.
- The NHS will no longer have an excuse not to provide patients with NICE recommended products. Treatments recommended by the Institute will now be automatically added on to local formularies, allowing doctors to prescribe more expensive treatments if they wish.
- A new group will be established to help the NHS overcome any barriers when implementing NICE guidance. The introduction of new medication or treatment may mean big changes in the
way services are delivered. The group aims to spread best practice across the health service.
The DH added that NHS Trusts receive funding for each new NICE appraisal, so financial issues should not be used as a barrier to the uptake of innovative new treatments.
Speaking when the details were first announced in late August, then Health Minister Paul Burstow said the “new regime” would be a “catalyst for change”. He added that the DH is “determined to eradicate variation” across the uptake of NICE approved drugs. “NHS organisations must make sure the latest NICE approved treatments are available in their area, and if they are not, then they will now be responsible for explaining why not,” he said. “Being transparent with data like this is the hallmark of a 21st century NHS. It is
a fundamental tool to help healthcare professionals improve patient care.”
The introduction of the scorecard has been backed by the ABPI. Stephen Whitehead, ABPI Chief Executive, said it would be a “valuable tool” to support the latest NICE recommendations. “There is still a great deal of variation across the country on which treatments patients are able to access and so I am hopeful the scorecard will help highlight discrepancies which can then be addressed,” he said.
Whitehead called the scorecard a “definite step forward” in ensuring patients receive the latest treatments as quickly as their European counterparts. He said the existing system was bad news for the health of the nation which resulted in a lost opportunity to “drive efficiency savings through the use of medicines”.
The NHS Confederation was equally receptive to the introduction of the scorecard. But former Deputy Chief
Executive David Stout warned its implementation may cause “unnecessary bureaucracy” and stretch NHS finances even further. “It is also important to remember that the NHS is facing an unprecedented financial challenge and organisations must live within their means while providing high quality care,” he said. “The reality is we can only afford to provide new drugs or treatments where they are cost effective and demonstrably add real patient benefits. In a health system with no financial growth, any new costs have to be offset by savings elsewhere.”
Stout added that the introduction of the scorecard will only be a success if the NHS engages with local communities and clinicians to decide what local priorities are.