Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley this week hit headlines by pledging that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will speed up its process of assessing cancer drugs.
In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference, Lansley branded British survival rates from cancer a ‘disgrace’.
But Angie Wiles, joint managing director at specialist healthcare agency Virgo, accused the Tories of looking for easy headlines.
‘Cancer is a headline-grabbing topic and is guaranteed to attract the press,’ she said. ‘There are other drugs and diseases that warrant equal attention but don’t get it.
Graham McMillan, CEO of public affairs and corporate comms agency Open Road, also attacked the proposal. He said: ‘The Tories need to explain how they would pay for it. If it was cheap and easy to do, you would think the Government would have done it already.’
Responding to Lansley’s remarks, a NICE spokeswoman stressed ministers are in charge of licensing drugs. ‘Topics for the NICE work programme are referred by ministers, any changes to the process for topic referral would have to be instigated by government,’ she said.
NICE has already instituted a fast-track approvals process. The single technology appraisal system is applied for drugs deemed particularly necessary by patients.
This week, the annual Euro Health Consumer Index survey, produced by the Health Consumer Powerhouse, placed Britain 17th out of 29 EU member states for patient satisfaction with the NHS.