1 min read

Editor's blog Saturday 3 April 2010: Conservatives shoot selves in foot over credibility of independent NHS plan

So. Does this story about the Conservatives wanting NICE to approve more cancer drugs look to you as if this is a party who can credibly propose in their policy to allow an independent board to run the NHS?


Me neither.

The NHS has huge issues with its democratic deficit. There is no doubt that political meddling in the NHS has a long and inglorious history, such as Patricia Hewitt did over the Epsom / St Helier reconfiguration a few years back and Boy Wonder Burnhoid did more recently over "preferred provider".

This has led some to support the 'arms' length body' proposal for the NHS. Others have pointed out that an apparently QUANGO-cutting Conservative Party is proposing to create the world's biggest QUANGO.

I would simply suggest that the tax-based funding system (to which the Conservatives also claim commitment) means that ministers are intrinsically responsible for the money raised through taxation.

Latterly, the Conservatives have also strained their aspirant credibility in suggesting that the movement of care out of hospitals will be abandoned.

In the BBC News piece, the Conservatives also look a bit silly in calling for more of the patient access schemes that are already happening. And if you want me to choose between having decisions made by a minister (which to be quite fair, happened very blatantly with Herceptin) or a body whose entire remit is to balance the clinical-effectiveness of a drug with cost-effectiveness, I will choose the latter every time.

(The solution to the problem is of course to give NICE a budget for drugs. That would sharpen issues up NICEly. But then, that impacts on localism. Trade-offs, eh?)