NICE conference focus

Published: 12/12/2001, Volume II2, No. 5835 Page 11

Junior health minister Lord Hunt has warned that the government will intervene where trusts do not implement National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance.

Announcing changes to the way topics are selected for NICE appraisal, Lord Hunt said problems with implementing the resulting guidelines across the NHS also 'need to be addressed'.

He told delegates that 'most parts of the NHS have followed to the letter NICE guidance and directions. But there are problems in some areas'.

Speaking after his keynote address, Lord Hunt said: 'We will intervene where we see problems.

The whole NICE process's credibility depends on the NHS implementing its appraisals.'

He cited guidance from a NICE technical appraisal of multiple sclerosis drug Beta Interferon, where 'one or two parts of the country had had problems' but noted there were 'problems with having enough staff to implement [the guidance] immediately'.

The Commission for Health Improvement and the forthcoming Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection would also have 'a role to play' in monitoring implementation.

In his speech, Lord Hunt announced that in future a single committee would advise ministers on appraisals and clinical guidelines and the number of patient and carer representatives would be increased from two to four.

The criteria for choosing topics to be examined by NICE would be clarified, and the process for consulting stakeholders simplified.

And Lord Hunt called for more input from people working in the NHS. 'We get plenty of advice from pharmaceutical companies and patient groups.We lack sufficient advice coming from the NHS itself.'

Lord Hunt praised NICE for its work on involving patients and the public, citing the 30-strong citizens' council which had just held its first meeting.

lNICE will be producing guidance on two new areas - medical food available under the NHS and the national screening programme - according to chair Sir Michael Rawlins in his closing conference speech.

NICE will also be setting up its seventh national collaborating centre, for cancer, next year.

Sir Michael pledged that in the future the institute would provide earlier and faster appraisals of new technology.