Life-saving drug campaigners unhappy P&R wants to stall

A GROUP campaigning for better access to life-saving drugs is disappointed that Policy & Resources is seeking to stall progress in narrowing the gap between what drugs and treatments are available locally compared to the NHS.

Health Equality for All chairman Mike Read. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29676626)
Health Equality for All chairman Mike Read. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29676626)

The Government Work Plan put forward by the committee to drive States priorities for the next four years proposes holding the adoption of NHS-approved drugs to current levels, and bringing forward a review of the process.

Mike Read, chairman of Health Equality for All (Heal), said the group was very disappointed by the sudden and dramatic change in the position of P&R and Health & Social Care.

‘The clear decision made by the States in January 2020 was to invest in new drugs and treatments, reducing the significant and unacceptable disparity in our provision compared with the NHS, also promising wider benefits across our health service,’ he said.

‘Benefits that would improve patient care and efficiency of service delivery extending well beyond the thousands of patients that would be receiving the newer, more effective life-changing and life-saving drugs and treatments.’

The States agreed to a phased introduction of Nice (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) TA (technological appraisal), the way that new drugs are introduced into the NHS, in January 2020.

But the vote was unfunded, leaving central government with concerns about how costs might escalate in future.

With States finances stretched, and treasury lead Deputy Mark Helyar warning that committees must keep within budget limits, the decision to stall the progress in this area was taken.

‘This is not a position in which any member of the States would wish to find themselves, however it is necessary that the States consider carefully if progressing further with this policy is the very best way to secure maximum impact for very significant, additional annual expenditure in health services,’ said the GWP report.

Currently the States offers drugs and treatments with an Icer (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio), that is the difference in total costs set against the chosen measure of health outcomes, of up to £30,000. A second tranche of treatments with an Icer of up to £40,000 was to be introduced two years later, with a review of the whole process carried out after that.

Now the States wants to hold the programme at current levels and introduce a review before considering the move to the £40,000 Icer.

‘Very positive progress is being made on the implementation of Nice TAs, but to extend to an Icer value greater than £30,000 before any review, given the decision pre-dates two lockdowns and the impact of the pandemic on the global economy, would be unwise in the context of today’s public finances,’ the GWP says.

‘To re-evaluate demonstrates good governance and stewardship of public funds. With limited funds available the States need to consider which actions will have a wider community impact.’

Mr Read said the island’s economic productivity and individual economic potential was directly related to the health of the population.

‘Fair and timely access to the right health care, care that is not determined by your wealth, remains a focus for Heal,’ he said.

The group will meet this week to discuss the implications of the move on islanders and how it should respond.

. Islanders are encouraged to contact the group, particularly those with chronic health conditions like cancer, so Heal can actively voice their concerns. To get in contact email or go to the Health Equality for All Facebook group.

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