Clause 217

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 29th March 2011.

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Photo of Liz Kendall Liz Kendall Shadow Minister (Health) 5:00 pm, 29th March 2011

GPs must still decide whether to spend £80,000 on a drug for the patient in front of them. It does not change the difficulty of the decision. Nobody knows how the new value-based pricing system will work. The consultation has just closed. The new system is supposed to consider not only whether an individual will benefit clinically from the drug but whether wider society will benefit and whether the drug, technology or treatment fulfils unmet need. Those are broad and nebulous concepts that have not yet been pinned down. We are not sure how all of it will work, pharmaceutical companies are not sure how it will work and NICE is not sure how it will work.

Will NICE have a role in determining the value-based pricing system? We think that it will have a role in assessing drugs under the new system, but will it have a role in drawing that up? I say to the hon. Lady that the drug companies will not suddenly and miraculously start making complicated gene-based drugs cheaper as a result. GPs, not NICE, will have to make the decisions. I freely admit that when NICE has made decisions, not all PCTs have taken them up, but that is about money, and simply wishing it away will not work.

In conclusion, I would like the Minister to answer some questions in his response. First, it seems to me that NICE has two roles. One involves producing quality standards, which we know will cover not only the NHS and public health but, for the first time, social care. That could cover a huge range of different treatments and services, and will involve consulting many more organisations.

NICE’s second function will relate to the value-based pricing system. It will at least assess drugs under the system, and will possibly help to develop the system in the first place. As I said, that will be a complicated process—even more complex than NICE’s current focus on quality-adjusted life years. We must remember that NICE’s funding is being cut by 30%. That relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Southport about mission creep. NICE has a huge number of jobs and tasks to do. I am sure that it would never let its standards slip, as it holds those standards dear, but it has a big and complicated task.