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Approach to rationing healthcare is losing legitimacy


20 February 2015

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Growing financial pressure on the NHS is exposing a lack of legitimacy in the way many decisions about rationing healthcare in England are made, according to the Nuffield Trust.

 

Growing financial pressure on the NHS is exposing a lack of legitimacy in the way many decisions about rationing healthcare in England are made, according to the Nuffield Trust.

In a briefing aimed at current and prospective MPs, the think tank’s chief executive Nigel Edwards argues that some rationing is inevitable in any health system. However, he states that decision-makers must do better at avoiding ‘fudges’ when it comes to making decisions about which drugs and treatments should be funded by the NHS, whether these are made at a local level through commissioning policies, or at a national level through policies like the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Mr Edwards said: “The rationing process in the NHS is messy. Policymakers, commissioners and clinicians have muddled through and have made a series of compromises and trade-offs. This has resulted in reduced access to treatments in some areas for reasons that have not been made clear and it has led to cancer drugs receiving priority over other treatments at a national level.

“This approach worked while there was money in the system. But as funding pressures grow, the messiness of these compromises becomes rather harder to defend.”

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