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NHS drug top-up ban "to be axed"

Rules banning NHS patients from topping up treatment with expensive private drugs are to be dropped by the government, according to reports.

The Telegraph newspaper said health secretary, Alan Johnson, had indicated he planned to ease the restriction to ensure the system "doesn't deny people essential treatment unduly" following threats of legal action by some patients.

Earlier this year he ordered cancer tsar, Professor Mike Richards, to review the rules amid an outcry over some patients being refused care after buying life-prolonging drugs not authorised as cost-effective for NHS use.

The newspaper said Mr Johnson would announce changes within days of receiving the report, due next week.

Mr Johnson told the paper he wanted to ensure "we don't undermine the basic principles of the NHS, which is treatment available to all, free at the point of use [and] irrespective of your background".

The new system could involve patients only receiving care at home and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issuing advice on the effectiveness of drugs it does not approve for the NHS, the Telegraph suggested.

Two weeks ago, it was revealed that about 1,000 patients a year were already topping up their NHS care as hospitals dodge the rule on top-ups to help patients gain access to drugs.

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