Pharmaceutical and technology companies looking to introduce their products into the NHS must do more research to demonstrate effectiveness, a senior NHS Commissioning Board official has said.
Clinical director for specialised services James Palmer told HSJ the board’s proposal to reduce the need for patients to request funding for treatments not routinely commissioned by the NHS would also put pressure on commercial organisations to do “proper research”.
Earlier this year Mr Palmer announced plans to reduce variation in access by developing a national funding policy for any treatment that had been subject to five or more funding requests.
“There are many commercial organisations that look at the English market and they don’t do decent research to demonstrate efficacy of their project… It’s much harder for companies to get their products into America than the UK,” he said.
Mr Palmer, a neurosurgeon who practices at Plymouth Hospitals Trust, described individual funding requests as a “failure of the system” which put patients in a “really difficult position”.
From April the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for requests relating to its portfolio of specialised services while clinical commissioning groups will handle requests relating to the services they commission.
Mr Palmer said there would always be a need for individual funding requests in exceptional cases but in instances where the treatment being sought was new and no policy existed the board would look at developing a policy even if just a single request was made.
“We know there are loads of areas we haven’t got a policy for… We need to set a work plan [for] policy formation and in a way using the [individual funding request] route initially will help us define what needs to be [done],” he added.
Mr Palmer also revealed each of the 73 clinical reference groups being set up to advise on the commissioning of specialised services would be tasked with producing “innovation portfolios”, identifying every new “procedure, device, drug or care pathway” in the pipeline. He hopes that this forward planning will speed up the introduction of new technologies into the NHS.
The consultation on new specifications for specialised services closed last month.
Responding to concerns about the impact some of the challenging new standards could have on smaller trusts, Mr Palmer said the specifications were supposed to be a “safe landing”.
“If it comes out of the consultation there’s a significant body of opinion saying [a particular] specification is too much of a stretch we’ll have to change it because we’ve set out from the outset to safely land previous services into the board [commissioned] services,” he said.