The role of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is to be extended to identify ineffective treatments and to advise on reducing costs to the NHS.

The role of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is to be extended to identify ineffective treatments and to advise on reducing costs to the NHS.

Health minister Andy Burnham announced last week that NICE had been asked to carry out a new programme to help weed out treatments in the NHS that were poor value or did not benefit patients.

The institute will now issue around three or four 'recommendation reminders' each month to highlight advice in its existing guidance to stop interventions that are ineffective.

It will also draw up a series of guides for NHS commissioners on how to commission routine services in line with NICE recommendations, and publish technology appraisals on ineffective practice.

For the first time, the guides will set benchmarks for commissioning and allow NHS managers to use them to make comparisons with their own local commissioning.

The first guides will be on upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy; anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation; pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; assisted discharge scheme for COPD; and assessment of the diabetic foot.

Launching the initiative, health minister Andy Burnham said weeding out poor-value treatments was an important new strand of work for NICE and had the potential to save millions of lives a year.

'We are asking NICE to look at treatments that cost the NHS more than£1m a year, said Mr Burnham.

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon said it was 'common sense' for NICE to advise on when it was appropriate to stop using treatments that did not benefit patients, or did not represent good value for money.

'For example, NICE will issue a reminder that suitable patients with end-stage renal failure should be offered the choice between home haemodialysis or haemodialysis in a hospital or satellite unit,' said Mr Dillon. 'Only 2 per cent of patients received home haemodialysis, while around 10-15 per cent would opt for it given the choice. If the number increased to 15 per cent, the potential saving would be£9.7m a year.'