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Hospitals “dodging NHS drug rules”


15 October, 2008  

Hospitals are reportedly dodging government rules intended to stop patients privately buying expensive drugs not available on the NHS.

Clinical services provider Healthcare at Home says it has contracts with 30 NHS hospitals to offer treatments privately to patients who are also receiving standard care.

Managing director Ruth Pool said about 1,000 patients a year in the UK are mixing private and NHS care with the help of their doctors and the firm.

The rules state that a person cannot be a NHS and a private patient in the same episode of care.

To sidestep this, some NHS hospitals regard seeing a consultant as one episode. Another consultant prescribes the drugs, which are supplied by Healthcare at Home. The patient pays the company directly which is counted as another separate episode.

Ms Pool said people were buying drugs that are licensed in the UK, but had often not been approved by the health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We know there is variation in how individual trusts are applying the current guidance, which is why professor Mike Richards is to lead a review into this difficult issue.”

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