The public is to be allowed to attend committee meetings at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in a bid to make the body more transparent.

NICE chair Professor Sir Michael Rawlins announced the move at the first evidence session into the organisation held by the Commons health select committee.

Sir Michael said he regretted that the committee meetings - which cover appraisals, interventional procedures and research and development - had not been held in public.

The development came after Labour MP Doug Naysmith asked Sir Michael whether NICE's work could be made 'more transparent'.

Sir Michael told the committee: 'From about the autumn our committees will meet in public so that people can hear the reasoning behind the judgements that are being made.'

The move would benefit observers as 'however well you write it out afterwards, you never quite get the flavour' of how decisions are reached, Sir Michael said.

But he said it was 'quite a complicated thing to engineer so it is taking a bit of time for us to work through'.

Local variation

Sir Michael was questioned alongside NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon, who admitted there has been local variation in the 'pace of implementation' of NICE guidance.

He said: 'Where there is no reason for [variation in implementation] following the publication of a piece of guidance by NICE it's disappointing for us.'

But he said this was 'everybody's fault' and flatly turned down a suggestion that NICE holds a top-up budget to help PCTs that run out of money to fund treatments.

He said: 'It is not the right way to do it. The right way to do this is to delegate budgets out to the NHS where it is appropriate, to guide and direct the health service in the application of those resources and to allow local bodies to get on with the rest of it'.