It will be the fourth time the government has been forced to review its plans to cut costs in buying and fitting specialist continence and stoma appliances in consultations that began in 2006.
In a victory for NT, which has been campaigning for ministers to listen more closely to nurse views in the consultations, stoma and continence nurses are already being involved with the content of the new proposals.
Ian Fretwell, nurse consultant in colorectal endoscopy at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Derbyshire, said nurses from the Association of Coloproctology, the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists and specialist continence nurses had met with Department of Health officials to advise them.
‘This means the consultation has more credibility, although it took two years to bring it to their attention – it is what we wanted,’ he said.
But Kath Wilkinson, chairperson of the RCN’s continence forum, said: ‘You just wonder whether by the time they have finished the consultations they will have spent more on the cost of the consultation than what they meant to save.’
According to a written parliamentary statement from health minister Dawn Primarolo, the new consultation will cost around £393,000.
So far the consultations have cost £2.5m, meaning that the fourth attempt to resolve the matter will bring the total bill to nearly £3m.
‘The department intends to publish a further consultation regarding the arrangements under Part IX of the Drug Tariff for the provision of stoma and incontinence appliances – and related services – in primary care towards the end of May 2008,’ the statement said.
‘An impact assessment and equality impact assessment will be published alongside this,’ it added.
Nurses and patients had criticised the planned funding changes because of worries that they would cause producers of specialist continence products to go out of business, leaving patients without the appliances.
Proposed changes would have placed specialist catheters in the same band as standard ones meaning production costs were not covered by central funding.