Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wasteful Spending By NHS

Despite massive increases in funding, the performance of British health care doesn't seem to be getting substantially better. People suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer are being denied life prolonging drugs because, in the words of NICE (the inappropriately named drug approval commission) they are not "cost effective". Yet at a time when the government is busy looking for cuts to save money, there is one area of the NHS where vast sums of money are being spent on medications which are far from cost effective- money which could surely be put to better use.

It seems that a loophole exists in NHS rules which allows pharmacists to receive any payment they request for so-called "specials". Basically, these are liquid forms of medications usually give in pill form, for example liquid paracetamol.

A woman contacted the Daily Mail when she discovered that the liquid paracetamol she received for her son was charged to the NHS at a staggering £175 for a 500ml bottle. To buy that over the counter, without prescription, would cost perhaps £10. And it doesn't end there-

The NHS spent more than £3 ­million on around 14,000 liquid formulations of this in 2009, at a cost of £208 each (the equivalent amount in pill form costs £1.12).

But there are other, more shocking, price differences. ‘I couldn’t believe an invoice I recently received,’ one London-based pharmacist told us, on condition on anonymity. 
‘It was for a supply of sodium chloride solution — salt water, basically, to treat a child with hormone problems. The charge was £570. I’ve been told it soon will be £1,000. The ingredients would have cost just pennies.’

The article contains many other examples of this colossal waste.

Since the NHS reimburses pharmacists for any ­specials they order — at whatever cost — business is booming. Latest figures show that NHS spending on specials rose from £58 million in 2006/7 to £164 million in 2009/10.

A massive part of this increase is because the NHS won't set pricing rules on specials- and it seems they have no plans to do so. A pharmacist can pay hundred of pounds for a medicine with an actual value of pennies and he will be reimbursed without question- yet at the same time cancer sufferers are being told that they cannot receive drugs that will actual prolong their lives because they are not "cost effective". And it's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasteful spending.

It's little wonder that people are unhappy with the quality of care the NHS provides them with.

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