Not so NICE?


pillsThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is often criticized for the decisions it makes in the approval of drugs and their advice regarding clinical practices. Over the years they have managed to cultivate the negative image of putting the cost of drugs before patient welfare. This stigma has recently been partially disproved, with it emerging that three-quarters of cancer treatments, and 83% of all drugs and new treatments have been approved over the past decade.

This news shows that, despite their perceived image of withholding access to innovative treatment, it is in fact not this organisation that is guilty. Instead those patients, charities and politicians should instead look to the NHS and the primary care trusts that control around 80% of the NHS budget. These trusts are highly bureaucratic and complicated, reducing efficiency and losing sight of the needs of the patient. The problem of access to treatment is just one area of discontent, but surely it raises the question over the organisational structure and even the “public” status of the NHS. Even if there is a need for universal healthcare, why does it need to be provided by the government? What we do need is greater consumer choice in the system – not just over treatment but also over location, doctors, admission times, generally encouraging a higher level of clinical care.

In the current era of cuts, the NHS has been ring-fenced for political reasons. This is a mistake, but there is still room for greater efficiency within the organisation. Ultimately, efficiency cannot be achieved in the current public system with the escalating cost of treatment and increasing numbers of patients, particularly the elderly. With NHS funds and medical contact time at a premium, surely it is time for a shake-up by privatizing parts of the NHS. Give the public back their choice and let the market fix the NHS.