HDA Media And Political Bulletin – 15 March 2016

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Parliamentary Coverage

House of Lords, Written Answers, Medical Equipment: Procurement, 14 March 2016

 

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: What action they are taking to ensure that the adoption of new medical device technology by the NHS is not frustrated by the five-year length of NHS Supply Chain Framework Agreements, given the life cycle of some inventions.

 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): The framework agreements awarded by NHS Supply Chain primarily cover existing products and services. National frameworks reduce the duplication of effort faced by suppliers trying to ‘sell their’ products into the National Health Service on a trust by trust basis by providing a single route, compliant with European Union public procurement regulations.

The scope and duration of each framework agreement takes into account the nature of the product category, including an assessment of whether the product market is emerging or fast moving.

In addition, NHS Supply Chain hosts an Innovation Scorecard enabling suppliers to introduce truly innovative products into the NHS following a submission through the online tool on the organisation’s website. If a product is deemed to be innovative, the product can be fast-tracked and made available to the NHS through NHS Supply Chain’s online and national catalogues usually within a six month period.

The Accelerated Access Review, announced by the Minister for Life Sciences in November 2014 will make recommendations to Government on speeding up access to transformative new medicines and technologies for NHS patients, using data from initiatives such as the CDF and EAMS, as well as greater use of procurement purchasing power to accelerate cost effective uptake of innovations.

Its key aims are to improve care and outcomes by giving patients quicker access to new treatment and improve the longer-term affordability of the product pipeline. The Review published an interim report in October 2015 and will make further recommendations to Government by April 2016.

 

House of Commons, Written Answers, Health: Prescription Drugs, 14 March 2016

 

Roger Godsiff, MP:

Whether clinical commissioning groups are permitted to prescribe medications which NICE does not recommend as cost effective.

 

Department of Health

 

George Freeman, MP:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) clinical guidelines represent best practice, based on the available evidence, and are developed through wide consultation. They relate to a whole pathway of care and are not subject to the same legal funding requirement as NICE’s technology appraisals.

NICE’s technology appraisal guidance makes recommendations on whether selected drugs and treatments represent a clinically and cost effective use of National Health Service resources. Commissioners are legally required to fund drugs and treatments recommended in NICE’s technology appraisal guidance within three months of its final guidance being issued.

In the absence of positive guidance from NICE, it is for commissioners to make decisions on whether to fund this treatment based on an assessment of the available evidence. Prescribing decisions are made by clinicians, based on their patients’ individual clinical circumstances.

 

 

House of Lords, Written Answers, Pharmacy: Finance, 14 March 2016

 

Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: How the six per cent decrease in community pharmacy funding will be allocated to ensure that access to medication at all times is maintained, in particular for those who are frail or who have complex conditions.

 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): Community pharmacy is a vital part of the National Health Service and can play an even greater role. In the Spending Review, the Government re-affirmed the need for the NHS to deliver £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21 as set out in the NHS’s own plan, the Five Year Forward View. Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care and has an important contribution to make as the NHS rises to these challenges. The Government believes efficiencies can be made without compromising the quality of services including patients’ access to medicines.

Our aim is to ensure that those community pharmacies upon which people depend continue to thrive and so we are consulting on the introduction of a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies compared to others, considering factors such as location and the health needs of the local population.

 

Full Coverage

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Pharmacy regulator confirms that it is still seeking surveillance powers

The Pharmaceutical Journal, 8 March 2016

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has confirmed it is still in discussion with the government and the Department of Health over new surveillance powers to help it uncover illegal professional practice. This statement follows the BBC’s Inside Out London programme in 2012, updated on March 7, which showed community pharmacists illegally selling prescription drugs to customers

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There is no Parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Pharmacy regulator confirms that it is still seeking surveillance powers

The Pharmaceutical Journal, 8 March 2016

 

The pharmacy regulator has confirmed that it is still in discussions with the government over new surveillance powers to help it uncover illegal professional practice.

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said on 8 March 2016 that talks are still ongoing with the Home Office and Department of Health to enable its officers to be given surveillance powers that would allow them to covertly obtain information for the purpose of a specific investigation.

 

The GPhC’s comments followed the BBC’s Inside Out London programme, which updated viewers on 7 March 2016 about the outcome of its original exposé in 2012, which uncovered community pharmacists illegally selling prescription drugs to customers.

 

The exposé led to nine pharmacists facing GPhC fitness-to-practise hearings. Eight cases ended in recommendations for suspension or erasure from the register. One case is still going through the process and three appeals against the recommendations are pending.

 

A spokesperson for the GPhC confirmed it was still hoping to secure a change in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to give it new surveillance powers to use “during investigations into serious concerns about registered pharmacies or pharmacy professionals”.

 

They also confirmed that, although the discussions with the Home Office and Department of Health also focused on giving officers the power to use covert human intelligence sources – whereby a relationship is built with suspected offenders for covert purposes – that was not being pursued.

 

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, praised the BBC investigation. “It uncovered unlawful and potentially dangerous prescription medicines sales, and helped the GPhC identify and remove unethical pharmacists from practice. As such, it has rendered a service to the public and the GPhC,” he says.

Statement in response to media coverage on medicine prescribing

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, 24 February 2016

 

ABPI stated that the suggestion that prescription drugs are the third leading causing of death is misleading, and not an official statistic. The industry body explained that medicines are developed to address the leading cause of death, but only deliver value when prescribed appropriately.

 

Further coverage on proposed Government reforms to community pharmacy can be found on C&D here and here, and on The Pharmaceutical Journal here.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There is no Parliamentary coverage today.

 

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MPs debate ‘perverse’ community pharmacy proposals

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Debbie Andalo, 24 February 2016

 

Ministers speak out against “outrageous” funding cuts in special parliamentary debate.

 

Government plans to slash £170m from the community pharmacy budget in England in October 2016 are uneconomic and short sighted because patients will turn to over-stretched GP services and hospital casualty departments to fill the gap in care, according to MPs speaking at a special parliamentary debate.

 

Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for St Ives in Cornwall, who led the debate, said the government’s belief that reducing spending on community pharmacy services will generate savings was “perverse”.

 

Speaking at the House of Commons on 23 February 2016, Thomas told MPs: “The reform of community pharmacy is not something that we can afford to get wrong. Many community pharmacies are important businesses which have been established for decades – a wrong move by the government could make these businesses unviable.”

 

The proposed funding cuts do not support the transition from a “supply-based service to a more clinical-based service” – one that patients deserve and that the government desires, he added.

 

Thomas wants the government to carry out a health, economic and social impact assessment on its proposals to reduce community pharmacy numbers. “Don’t write pharmacy off until you have given them the resources to fulfil their potential,” he told MPs at the debate.

 

Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley and chair of the All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG), described the size of the cuts as “outrageous”

 

Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley and chair of the All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG), described the size of the cuts as “outrageous”, warning that 3,000 community pharmacies could close in England as a result. “That is a quarter of all pharmacies. How will it happen – will that be by stealth or is there some sort of plan? There seems to be no plan whatsoever.”

 

Roger Mullin, Scottish National Party MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, added: “This cull of pharmacies doesn’t make any sense.”

 

Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport in Devon, the government’s pharmacy champion and vice chair of the APPG, said the current consultation on the government’s proposals highlighted the issue of “over-supply of some pharmacies in specific locations”.

 

He told MPs: “We have some large pharmacy groups who are willing to give up some of their leases on some of their shops… if the government gives them assurance that they will not be given to another chain of pharmacies.”

 

Many MPs reiterated the pivotal role that community pharmacists play, especially in isolated rural communities, saying they take pressure off GPs, hospital emergency departments and provide crucial support to particularly vulnerable patients who trust them and find them accessible. Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, said the profession was “performing miracles on the high street”.

 

But there was concern about government proposals to change dispensing models. Moving towards an American-style system of “commoditised medicines dispensing” would threaten the clinical potential of pharmacists, according to Barron.

 

Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn, Lancashire, said pharmacists were being attacked on two fronts — a reduction in government support and by market forces. He highlighted the move towards ‘Amazon-style’ wholesale pharmacies “driven by profit”, adding that not everybody is online or able to support remote arrangements. “This erodes the public services element which pharmacies provide,” he told MPs.

 

Health minister Alistair Burt told MPs that negotiations were at an early stage and that the proper negotiating process was being followed

 

Health minister Alistair Burt sought to reassure MPs — and pharmacists — that the negotiations on the 6% budget cut were at an early stage. “Many of the questions [from the debate] are at the heart of these discussions. Not all the answers are available at this stage; we are going through the proper negotiating process.”

 

Burt acknowledged that the profession had a greater role to play in primary care and public health and reiterated that the £300m being spent via the integration fund provided pharmacists with a route to that end. “That is part of the overall development that we are hoping to make.”

 

But he added it was wrong to think that cost reductions never brought about improvements to services. “Sometimes change is inspired by necessity and for the better,” he told MPs at the debate.

 

MPs debate ‘perverse’ community pharmacy proposals

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Debbie Andalo, 24 February 2016

 

“All medicines undergo rigorous testing for quality, safety and efficacy by global regulators, including the MHRA in the UK. The data is also subject to continuous scrutiny during trials, once licensed and throughout the life of the medicine, including after a patent has expired.”

 

​​​”The pharmaceutical industry already works closely with the regulators to ensure safety and efficacy of branded medicines. The suggestion that prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease is misleading and this is not a statistic recognised by either the World Health Organisation or the Office for National Statistics in the UK.

 

“The assessment of a medicine – the benefits and risks it brings to patients as well as the value it provides to healthcare – is an ongoing process.  Innovating companies discover and develop new uses for these medicines over the life of these products, and regulators and health technology assessors continue to update their assessments based on new information. None of these procedures are “weak” or “murky” but by and large published for public scrutiny.

 

“Data transparency related to medicines is an agenda that our members have been progressing over years with an overall disclosure rate at study end of 92% most recently, and this can be reviewed in published research (1) which we are updating annually.  Moreover, the European Clinical Trials Regulation will make this disclosure mandatory. However, we recognise that the discussion on the evaluation of medicines is timely, and we were pleased to contribute together with many other stakeholders to the ‘Evaluating Evidence’ policy programme of the Academy of Medical Sciences. This dialogue is critical to achieve a shared constructive and progressive framework for the assessment of medicines.

 

“Medicines have made a profound difference to treatment and care of patients. Not only do medicines not appear in the list of leading causes of mortality for men and women in the UK (2), medicines are developed to address the leading causes which are listed, such as cancer, heart disease, COPD and influenza/pneumonia.  However, medicines can only really deliver their value when prescribed appropriately and in the right healthcare settings, and we work with our regulators, the NHS, healthcare practitioners and patients to deliver that commitment to patients.”

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