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NICE boss in PCT drug rethink call

The head of Britain's drug approval agency has demanded that local healthcare trusts make moves to end Britain's postcode lottery.

According to Andrew Dillon, from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), primary care trusts (PCTs) ought to demonstrate greater consistency when assessing whether to fund medicines.

Mr Dillon told the BBC's Panorama: "There ought to be a common basis for making decisions about exceptional circumstances and I think anybody who uses the NHS for their  care is entitled to expect that.

"What patients need to do is to find out from those who are making the decision what the basis of that decision is, and if they don't think it's reasonable, if they don't think it compares appropriately with decisions that are taken elsewhere, ask 'why not?'"

NICE has become the focus of increasing public anger at the number of drugs and treatments it has blocked. Once treatments have been approved by NICE, PCTs are obliged to provide them.

But, in the absence of such approval, a patient must appeal to a committee at the local trust which can choose to fund it as an exceptional case.

Those who are refused must settle for a less effective treatment or pay privately for the drugs - at the risk of having all other NHS care withdrawn.

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Do you agree with Andrew Dillon? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Of course there is a postcode lottery! And with the amount of tax, NI etc everyone is paying, why on earth cannot all adequate treatments be provided for all?! Where is all the money going? High rents for properties such as the awful PFI "initiative" hospitals is one area. If the government truly invested in healthcare all the income they taxed us for it, there would be no need for this "we can't treat everyone" mentality. We are the 3rd/4th biggest economy in the world, yet we deny young patients cancer drugs. Many poorly paid people do not get free chemotherapy drugs and therefore cannot afford the huge cost every week for 3 or 4 prescriptions. We deny elderly patients adequate home care, and vital breast cancer treatment is denied in my area but allowed in other areas forcing people to go through stressful procedures through the courts. What is this all about??? One only has to go to Scotland to see the vast differences in healthcare - let alone all their free prescriptions that we in England are paying for. If the government can provide more beds, more nurses and ambulances per head of population, more social care generally in Scotland, then why can't we all have it? After all the cost of living is far higher in the South but we seem to be getting less for it. Of course people are angry. And rightly so." - Name and address supplied

"I don't believe there exists a postcode lottery. Each health division is given their own descretion on whether to allow a drug to be prescribed to a patient. It is a clinical decision. Lets face it,  some doctors still are not strictly honest to patients' demands and are not willing to explain to patients why a particular decision taken may not be what the patient wishes to hear. We have to be realistic. The NHS cannot provide everything to all. Priorities have to be in place when decisions are being made for drugs, nursing care etc." - V Henry, N15