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NHS block on top-ups criticised

A health think tank has blasted the current policy of preventing patients from paying for drugs to top up their NHS care, labelling it "untenable".

The King's Fund supported the idea of top-ups by announcing that "in certain circumstances" patients should be able to pay privately for drugs that have been rejected for use on the NHS due to high costs.

These patients should be able to access the rest of their treatment on the NHS but should be forced to pay for any treatment costs over and above what they would have normally received, it said.

Current government policy states that patients who wish to pay privately for drugs can be barred from the normal package of NHS care.

The statement from the King's Fund was released to coincide with a debate on the issue at its offices in central London.

The debate was attended by leading figures in health and social care, including professor Sir Mike Richards, who is conducting a review of the issue for the government which will report in late October, and Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It comes after a High Court judge ruled that 55-year-old cancer sufferer Colin Ross, who was given just months to live, should be given access to the new drug Revlimid, which has not yet been approved by NICE.

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