More details have come to light of how hospitals that delay acting on National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance will be forced to explain hold-ups to patients.
The new rules, brought in to tackle perceived disparities regarding available treatments, will allow the public to see ‘scorecards’ comparing the speed at which hospitals roll out innovative care methods and medicines.
Currently primary care trusts (PCTs) in some areas delay offering new drugs as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), while in other parts of the country they are available to patients straight away.
Under the scheme, which is expected to be rolled out before autumn, hospitals will have “no excuse not to provide the latest NICE-approved drugs and treatments”, the Department of Health said.
Organisations will be automatically added on to publicly available lists of what drugs are available in local areas.
It is hoped the rules will create a level playing field for treatments such as IVF, for which patients living in different regions have had varying levels of opportunity for the treatment.
Last year a report found more than 70% of NHS trusts were ignoring NICE guidance to offer infertile couples three chances at IVF, and some stopped funding treatment altogether.
The study, from a cross-party group of MPs, found PCTs placed strict restrictions on who is eligible for IVF.
Most PCTs put limits on the age at which they will treat women - but one PCT was only allowing women to be treated between the ages of 39 and 40.
This means younger women can wait years for NHS treatment despite the fact fertility declines with age.
Some of NICE’s most recent guidance, recommending an extended time to administer a clot-busting drug to treat stroke patients, for example, will soon have to be taken on by all hospitals.