Better access to drugs ‘will help thousands of islanders’

PEOPLE in the Bailiwick with severe illnesses deserve better from their government, Deputy Peter Roffey has said.

Deputy Peter Roffey. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29681393)
Deputy Peter Roffey. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29681393)

He was speaking after it was revealed in the Government Work Plan that Policy & Resources wanted to stall the progress in giving islanders the same access to life-changing drugs and treatments through a phased introduction of Nice TA – the way that new drugs are introduced into the NHS.

Deputy Roffey has long been an advocate for Bailiwick residents having access to drugs available on the NHS.

‘Hypothetically, if there’s four people with the same condition in a UK hospital, the person from England can get the latest and best treatment, the person from Jersey in the bed next to them can as well, so can the next person along from Guernsey if they have private insurance, but the last person from Guernsey who can’t afford private care will be told they cannot have it,’ he said.

‘I am aghast that anybody can think that’s appropriate.’

Recognising that this would come at a significant cost, he could not accept that this scandal should go on any longer.

‘There are not many policies where I would say that we absolutely have to find the money, but this is one of them.’

Health & Social Care issued a statement to say it understood why the proposed changes have caused concern.

HSC will, with Policy & Resources, soon meet Heal – the campaign group pushing for more NHS-approved drugs to be available – to discuss.

In January last year the States agreed to improve the lives of thousands of islanders.

During the debate, the then-HSC president Heidi Soulsby said so much of what government does, while incredibly important, did not benefit Guernsey people directly.

But approving the proposals to give islanders access to additional drugs and treatments would, she estimated, make more than 3,000 people’s lives better.

‘Ultimately, and probably most importantly... supporting these proposals today will reduce inequality by making available drugs that are currently only available to those who can pay,’ she said at the time.

‘Our proposals are expected to help thousands of people – not a handful, thousands – who may live longer, may live in less pain or be able to live independently and productively for longer.’

She is expected to respond to the proposed changes today.

It was agreed that a review would take place and report back in the first two years with proposals on how it should be funded.

However, an unfunded vote left central government with concerns about how costs might escalate in the future. Now, 18 months later, the committee she sits on [P&R] does not propose to progress that work and intends to bring forward the review of the process.

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.

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

This, Deputy Roffey said, affects more modern cancer drugs and believed people with those conditions deserved better from government.

Passionate that P&R’s proposals do not come to fruition, he said he needs to look at the GWP and see whether he can lay an amendment or other motion to it.

When the Assembly agreed to the phased introduction of NICE TAs in January 2020, it did so recognising the funding gap which exists in respect of health and care services.

‘With an ageing demographic, a growing demand for increasingly specialist services and continued clinical developments, healthcare is getting more and more expensive,’ a HSC spokesperson said.

‘This makes decisions about investment particularly difficult and longer term this is a conversation that needs to be had as a community about what services we expect and what we are willing and able to pay for these.’

These decisions have become even harder with Covid, and the reality is that events of the last 18 months will have a lasting effect on how HSC is able to deliver care for years to come.

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