The NHS Commissioning Board’s plans to develop national policies for new treatments after just five individual funding requests could stifle innovation, it has been warned.

Under the current commissioning system, if a clinician wants to prescribe a drug or offer a treatment not normally commissioned by their primary care trust, they have to make a request to a funding panel organised by the PCT or a group of PCTs. This has led to variation in access to some treatments.

The commissioning board has proposed that, after PCTs are abolished at the end of March, there will be just one individual funding request panel covering each of its four regions. They will all work to a national set of policies.

Under the final draft policy being considered by the board, once five funding requests have been received across England for a treatment, a national policy will be developed for it.

Specialised Healthcare Alliance director John Murray, responding to the proposals, said: “My worry would be that it could have a [negative] impact on innovation because it [five] is quite a low threshold. You don’t want to snuff out innovations prematurely. This needs to be thought through.”

A commissioning board spokeswoman said: “We are committed to promoting innovation and have a number of workstreams within specialised commissioning to aid its introduction and development. The utilisation of an individual funding request policy is a separate strand to this focused work.”