A process for deciding which new specialist treatments NHS England will fund will not be developed until the end of the year at the earliest, it has emerged.

This has provoked frustration from patient groups.

NHS England published its response to a consultation on the controversial issue of how it decides which new treatments to fund in specialised services this week.

However, the Specialised Healthcare Alliance said it was “disappointed” that the prioritisation process which had been promised by NHS England, had still not been clarified.

NHS England said its consultation had found “broad general support” for its proposed principles for deciding investment.

These principles include giving priority to interventions which demonstrate “value for money”, but potentially still funding treatments for rare conditions even where there is limited published evidence on clinical effectiveness.

However the arm’s length body has said a further formal consultation will have to be carried out to decide how these principles are turned into a planned “ranking methodology”, for deciding which drugs, devices and treatments to commission.

This would not be available for use until the 2016-17 planning round.

SHCA director John Murray told HSJ his organisation was “disappointed about the perfunctory nature of NHS England’s response at this stage”.

“A lot of it seems to be delayed until another day and another forum,” he said.

“We’ve said repeatedly that although the consultation referred to the principles and the process, there was nothing about the process.”

NHS England’s clinical director for specialised services James Palmer said the consultation on the ranking methodology was unlikely to happen before August. This meant the final decision about what methodology would decide investment in 2016-17 probably would not be made until December or January.

NHS England embarked on the prioritisation consultation in December 2014, after it was forced to drop a controversial “scorecard” for deciding which treatments to fund following a legal threat.

The organisation was due to sign off on its prioritisation of treatments for 2015-16 at a meeting yesterday, based on a set of principles adapted according to the consultation outcome.

Updated on 2 July 2015 to clarify the position of the SHA

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