MPs have criticised the publication of guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as being too slow, and have recommended that PCTs should have a larger role in the development of NICE guidance.
The Health Select Committee's report on NICE's role and work, published yesterday (10 January 2008) said: "The speed of publication of guidance is a major problem.
"Licensed medicines are often not prescribed while PCTs and clinicians wait for NICE to make a decision. Delayed access to products later found to be both cost- and clinically effective harm both patients and the NHS."
It also suggested that PCTs be given more help to implement guidance and that PCTs should have a larger role in guidance development in order to help improve implementation.
However, the report said: "Since it was established in 1999, NICE has achieved much. Its evaluation processes are generally robust, and are well-regarded worldwide."
Commenting on the recommendations, Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said: "We welcome the Health Select Committee's findings: the Committee is supportive of the vital job we do for the NHS, and their report is broadly positive.
"The Committee's constructive criticisms will help us to review and improve how we work."
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE Chairman, said: "Perhaps the most significant recommendation from the Health Select Committee is that we should consider all new drugs as they become available.
"We will need to work closely with our stakeholders and the Department of Health to discuss the feasibility of achieving this."
David Stout, Director of the PCT Network, which represents the majority of PCTs, said: "We are pleased that PCTs will be encouraged to take a more significant role in the development of guidance.
"The PCT Network is currently working to help trusts contribute more effectively to the work of NICE, with the aim of providing more efficient treatment for patients."
The NICE Board will prepare and agree a formal response to the Committee's report in March 2008.