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Government seeks stakeholder consultation over NICE

Published on 04/12/14 at 11:29am
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NICE stakeholders are being asked for their views on its future as part of the government’s ongoing review into the pricing watchdog.

Individuals, the pharmaceutical industry, commissioners, practitioners, civil society groups and other health and care institutions will be able to present their evidence between 1 December 2014 and 2 January 2015.

The review – announced in October by George Freeman, the minister responsible for NICE – is part of the standard procedure for non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) to undergo assessment at least once every three years.

These reviews assess the continuing need for NDPBs, their function and their form, and their control and governance arrangements.

The first stage of NICE’s review examined the continuing need for the body, and whether its form, including operating at arm’s length from government, remains appropriate.

The second and current stage – which the stakeholders will be involved in – will evaluate NICE’s efficiency and whether it is operating in line with “the recognised principles of good corporate governance”, the watchdog says.

This will include assessments of whether NICE’s work fits well within the wider health and care system and current government policy, and whether the powers it currently has are sufficient to allow it to operate effectively.

The final report is scheduled to be published in February 2015. NICE says that it will be ‘closely involved’ in the review process, which will include the opportunity to see a draft report before it is published.

Delayed reform

Reform of NICE is much sought-after by many in the industry, this includes the ABPI, who released a report earlier this year saying that market access in the UK was a major problem. Jonathan Emms, the president of the ABPI and head of Pfizer UK, has previously said that NICE is in need of ‘political reform’ rather than internal tweaking.

NICE has also been facing increasing pressure over its conflict of interest policies. Several influential doctors have raised concerns over the body’s relaxed new guidelines for statins, saying that eight out of the 12 members of the NICE panel that produced the guidelines had direct financial ties to the pharma firms that make the statins. This issue may well come up during the stakeholder consultation period of the review.

The watchdog put its own planned reforms on hold in September, however, as its board could not agree on the many changes needed to overcome the country’s problems with market access.

George Underwood

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