The government has abandoned plans to significantly restrict payments to companies providing specialist stoma and continence appliances to patients, particularly children.
After five years of consultation, the government has backed down under pressure from patient and nursing groups over proposals in a consultation on part IX of the drugs tariff.
The change also represents a campaign win for Nursing Times, which oposed the proposed cuts and actively petitioned the government on the issue.
Part IX of the tariff sets out what the payments are that can be made by the NHS to private companies providing specialist continence and stoma appliances.
These payments cover the production of specialist sheaths and other devices that are often tailor-made for individual patients who have stoma or continence issues, and also reimburse nurses who are employed by the specialist companies to fit the devices for NHS patients.
Under complex earlier proposals, payments would have been drastically reduced – to the point that it would have become uneconomical to continue producing many of the devices, according to nurse and patient groups. One of the options put forward was a 12% reduction in payments for all catheter, stoma and incontinence products.
But now, a new set of proposals have recommended a much smaller reduction in payments than had originally feared, which stakeholders say should ensure enough funding for the specialist products and their fitting.
According to a document published last week by the Department of Health, although overall payments to companies will be reduced by 2% in the financial year, beginning in April 2010, an annual reimbursement price increase mechanism will be introduced in October 2010, based on inflation.
Paul Smith, executive director of the Spinal Injuries Association, said: ‘All the things we were concerned about have been taken into consideration. I am delighted that common sense seems to have prevailed.
‘Patients will be able to continue to use those specialist products. All those fears we had that we would not be able to have the products that enable a high quality of life have disappeared for the time being – unless they decide to do something else like this again,’ he added.
Ian Pomfret, continence adviser at Central Lancashire PCT, said: ‘This has taken such a long time. We have been campaigning to keep compliance practitioners, because as a continence service we use them a lot. The original proposals were taking their payments away.’