Campaigners Target Andrew Lansley at NICE Conference

Unrest over the government’s health bill came to the fore again at this week’s NICE conference, with one protestor questioning the UK Health Secretary over his rejection to issue the NHS risk register during his speech to delegates yesterday.

This is the second time that the Health Secretary has come under attack this week, after having been accused of lying about staffing levels in the NHS amid angry scenes at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress earlier this week.

As Lansley’s speech at the NICE conference came to its end, one angry protestor, much to the astonishment of a somewhat composed audience, interrogated the Health Secretary over his decision to keep the register private, accused him of breaching the law in doing so.

Outside the International Conference Centre in Birmingham, where the conference was being held, a small assembly of campaigners had also congregated to demonstrate against the government’s healthcare reforms and cuts to services, indicating the unpopularity of the Bill.

Andrew Lansley’s speech was mainly focused on the importance of NICE and of good evidence to improve the healthcare system.

Interestingly, far from the more backseat role some had forecast for the Institute going forward, Lansley said NICE “will not be any less vital in the NHS, if anything it will be more.”

The Institute, he added, will scrutinise the cost effectiveness of drugs “but will no longer be obliged to make yes or no decisions on access,” leaving its recommendations “even more applicable across the world.”

Quality Standards “key”

What will be essential to driving NHS improvements are the Institute’s Quality Standards (QS), which will be a “backbone for the new commissioning system”, Lansley noted.

Presently there are 17 such Quality Standards in use, but NICE has been tasked with developing 180 of them, as well as a new programme of standards in social care that will be broadcast in April 2013.

“We need to work with NICE to help improve innovation in the NHS,” Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of the NHS Commissioning Board, told delegates, and stressed that the Institute’s advice and Quality Standards must not go unnoticed.

Lansley also reconfirmed that Value Based Pricing’s aim is to secure value for taxpayers and reward innovation at the same time.

The new pricing system will be calculated to reflect the added value of treatments to society, he commented, noting that discussions on the new arrangements will take place sometime in the second half of 2012.

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