NICE 2009 Conference Thoughts ……..

It’s been a week or so since my last blog.  Mainly because of work commitments but also because of the usual family chaos around Christmas time …..  present buying, playing in gigs, travelling etc etc.

This year will only be the 2nd time in over 20 years that we haven’t spent it with family, for no other reason other than work and bad planning, but never mind we’re spending it with some local friends instead, which should be fun and will make a change.

Anyway, I was reading the report from the James Whale Fund regarding the NICE 2009 Conference, and a few things sprung to mind that we often forget about in our fight for drugs.  You can find the report on the front page of the James Whale Fund site … Click on this link.  A big thank you has to go to Sharon Deveson Kell at the Fund for putting these notes together.

There were some really interesting statistics that were pointed out.  Here are just a few that struck me

  • 1 in 5 new medicines are discovered and developed in the UK – This just shows how far ahead of the curve the UK is in terms of R & D and yet what is so frustrating is that we don’t get early access to these drugs.  To me it just shows how much bureaucracy NICE puts in the way of a decision.  Maybe closer links to the pharmaceutical companies at an earlier stage in the life cycle would speed this up.  I find it so hard to believe that other countries are able to approve drugs ahead of us, the only reason I can see is cost.
  • For the pharmaceutical industry to make an adequate ROI they need to spend £800m per product on research and they will not recoup these costs for about 25 years; this is a high risk industry – I totally agree with this, and I’ve written about it before.  Often we hear about the grotesque profits the pharmas make each year, and yet we forget how much they have to pump into R & D to get a drug to market.  How many fail? Personally I’d rather they were out there making a huge profit that enables them to invest than being squeezed by regulation that will make them shy away from it. Simple risk and reward logic, love it or hate it, it’s a fact.
  • Prescribing medication for chronic diseases, such as hypertension, can save the NHS £222m per year - This harps back to a previous blog after the Liberal Democrat party conference.  These are the things they should be focusing on.  I agree that we need to take a serious look at the disparity of drug distribution between rarer and common cancers, but for heavens sake lets look at even more obvious ways of saving money as well. As we dive deeper into one of the worst recorded recessions budgets will be squeezed even tighter, and if we can’t deal with these more obvious things then our battle is going to get even harder.

One other point I’d like to make that wasn’t dealt with in the NICE report is that of talent.  A lot is mentioned about the huge salaries and expenses that some of the health based senior management are paid.  It maybe true to say, (a bit like the MPs expense scandal this year), that there are discrepancies that need investigation, but let’s not lose track that if we want top talent to run our services then we have to pay for it.  We can’t expect everyone to be totally altruistic, why would you accept a role in health that pays half as much as you could get paid in industry?  We do need to be shown in a transparent fashion what people are paid and how that stacks up against comparable jobs in industry, however  I don’t believe that individual’s salaries need to be disclosed at all levels, just at the grade level. It works both ways, if we had these figures to hand we’d soon see just how little nurses get paid for example. We want nurses to have degrees and take on more and more responsibilities and yet we’re not prepared to pay for that ……. crazy.

I’m sure lots of folks wont agree with my last point, but I do sincerely believe that we have to pay for quality.  Do we have the right management in the NHS and surrounding services right now? Well, I’m not qualified to say yes or no to that, but I do wish we could sort out the red tape and hoops that get put in the way of decisions.  Decisions that effect patients! I firmly believe that no matter how good a manager you are that this must slow you down and discourage common sense.

Thanks again to the James Whale Fund for taking these notes and lets keep the debate alive into 2010!

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Posted under Andy Thomas, General

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