Treatments in health service to be assessed
The independent assessements would cover anything from a drug, to a new type of wound dressing, to an advance in heart surgery. They would avoid the piecemeal introduction of advances, which tend to spread out from the research centres, as well as abandoning those that do not work.
Such assessments would be powerful tools in the hands of clinicians arguing for the provision of a new service.
They could also avoid the current situation in which 'test-tube' baby techniques are rarely available on the NHS.
In addition to answering the questions 'does it work' and 'is it safe', the NHS assessement would consider many other implications of any new idea, including its cost and affordability, any ethical or social implications and its impact on death rates, life at home or the organisation of health services.
The proposals are contained in a discussion paper, Effects of Health Technologies, Principles, Practice, Proposals, commissioned by Professor Michael Peckham, NHS director of research and development, from the Advisory Group on Health Technology Assessment. The term technology is used to describe any new method or idea.
It argues for maximum openness and says it should be 'scientific misconduct' not to report findings.
Some will view the recommendations as a way of rationing health care and as a constraint on innovation; others will see it as a long-overdue attempt to provide the best treatments fairly across the country and as a counter to the powerful lobby of the pharmaceutical industry.
The report points out that there are five-fold differences in European countries between the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs - Britain is one of the the lowest users. It says that in the United Kingdom there are three-fold differences in rates at which GPs in adjacent practices refer their patients to hospital specialists.
The report says: 'If an approach is beneficial, cost effective and affordable for particular patients it should be widely available to them. If it is not then it should be abandoned.'
It says that the effect of new technologies on families and friends must be considered and points to the feasibility of giving sick children artificial life-support at home. 'Even though parents have been found to be overwhelmingly in favour of trying to care for their children at home, it is clear that setting up domiciliary artificial ventilation causes substantial emotional and financial problems for parents,' it says.
It accepts it will never be realistic to establish all the effects of a new technology and that some assessments would need to be very large and conducted over a long time. But it took a study of 17,000 heart attack cases to find out that 'a technology as simple and inexpensive as low dose aspirin could reduce the risk of premature death by a fifth'.
Looking at the importance of making information freely available, the report gives the example of the choice of suture material to repair tears after childbirth, which was found to make a difference of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in women who had pain during intercourse three years afterwards.
Professor Peckham said the Department of Health was developing a coherent strategy for evaluating health care in the light of the report's findings. 'It is essential reading for all those interested in and involved in improving health,' he said.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
£30000 - £35000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Electrical ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...
£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...