More than two thirds of MPs believe patients in the UK still suffer a ‘postcode lottery’ when trying to access the medicines they need, according to new research out today.
A poll by Populus and Pfizer Ltd also revealed that four in five MPs have been approached by constituents or patient groups with concerns about the NHS refusing to fund treatments that have been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
NICE was set up to help eradicate inconsistent access to medicines across the UK. By law, local health authorities in England and Wales must make arrangements to fund all treatments approved by NICE within three months. Yet the poll of MPs suggests that a ‘postcode lottery’ is still prevalent. Figures released earlier this year by the NHS Information Centre demonstrate likewise that uptake of NICE approved medicines varies considerably. The statistics, revealed in the organisation’s Innovation Scorecard, show wide variation in the medicines patients can access in different areas of England. The use of one medicine, for example, varies between a low of 31% of what would be expected, and a high of 249%.
The NHS invests less than £1 in every £10 on medicines and the proportion spent on the newest medicines is declining. Yet investment in medicines not only benefits patients, it can deliver considerable savings for the NHS. Since 2009, the development of new medicines has saved the NHS £223m each year by preventing heart attacks and strokes. In England alone, 5,000 lives could be saved every year if the NHS matched average European spends on cancer including treatments, screening and care. This doubles to 10,000 if it equals the European best.
Jonathan Emms, UK Managing Director, Pfizer said:
“The NHS is walking a tightrope. It must make efficiency savings of up to £20 billion while meeting the ever growing demands of an ageing population. Medicines can be part of the solution.
“New medicines help the NHS to save millions and transform the lives of patients, speeding up care, freeing up bed spaces and allowing people to return to work.
“We urge the Government to concentrate on ensuring that innovation and value is recognised in the NHS. No patient should be denied access to the best treatment because an NHS organisation is slow to innovate compared with its neighbour.”
The research findings were released today as Pfizer launches a campaign to highlight the benefits that new medicines can bring to the NHS by saving lives and money.