Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

We need a fairer system for funding drugs

  • Comment

High Court judges can no longer sentence people to death in this country – but some would argue that PCTs can.

Surely NHS patients should no longer be penalised if they pay privately for drugs that the health service will not fund?

Currently patients with cancer who pay for a treatment that has not been approved by the drug-rationing body NICE, become ineligible for NHS treatment. The issue of top-up payments deeply divides patients and both the nursing and medical professions.

The government’s review of the rules is long overdue.

To be fair, NICE has very difficult decisions to make. If it sanctioned all new treatments that potentially offered higher survival rates, other patients could suffer as the drugs bill would swallow up a far greater proportion of the overall budget.

Relaxing the rules is also seen as morally wrong – it’s against the founding principles of the NHS for the wealthy to receive better care than the less well off.

The NHS must be seen to treat all equally – but it should also be able to respond to individual needs and offer choices.

Perhaps, if top-ups are introduced, they should be limited to a narrow range of treatments or circumstances.

If all other therapies have failed, a patient who is terminally ill should be allowed to buy specific drugs while they remain within the NHS.

At the Labour party conference, the government announced that prescription charges would be waived for patients with cancer.

Over time this will be extended to all those with long-term illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.

This is a step in the right direction. Fairness has always been at the heart of the NHS – which is why the top-up controversy is damaging.

Steven Pack, community psychiatric nurse, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Want to read more Listen Up? Just click on the more by this author link at the top of the page.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.